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There’s a method to schools’ pink slip madness

Preliminary pinks delivered by March 15; final lay-off notices have May 15 cutoff
By: Melody Stone Journal staff writer
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Over the next two months Placer County school districts will play an elaborate game of teacher musical chairs. The factors at work are the state budget, enrollment and teacher seniority and credentials. These factors will determine if a teacher stays or goes before the next school year. In accordance with state law, school districts delivered the preliminary lay-off notices to teachers by March 15. The final lay-off notices will go out no later than May 15. Jeff Tooker, assistant superintendent for educational services at Placer Union High School District, said most of the time the number of teachers actually laid off is two to three times less than the number of pink slips given. “There’s nothing subjective about it,” Tooker said. “(Pink slips are given) based on hire date, credentials they possess, bumping rights.” When schools determine enrollment and receive budgets from the state government, teachers’ pink slips can be rescinded or teachers will be hired back. Pink slips and bumping rights Departments are downsized because of budget constraints and declining enrollment. Within the department the newest hire (Teacher A) receives a pink slip. If Teacher A also has a credential in a department not being cutback, and there’s a teacher in that department whom is less senior, Teacher A has bumping rights to that job. Meaning, Teacher A and Teacher B both get pink slips, even though Teacher A will probably bump into Teacher B’s job. And, if Teacher B has a credential to teach history, and there’s a less senior teacher in history — and so on and so forth. Auburn Union Teachers Association Co-President and Negotiations Chairman Steve Schaffer said each teacher who receives a pink slip is entitled to a “request of fair hearing.” Schaffer sits down with a representative from the district and two respective attorneys and they go through each case to make sure everything works out to the letter of the law and every individual is being treated fairly. If no agreement is reached before May 15 the parties goes to court. “Years ago, I know of a case where a district laid off a bunch of teachers and the formula they used was incorrect and the court ruled they had to hire back all the teachers — which cost the district a lot of money,” Schaffer said. “So they want to spend the time to make sure everything is square and perfect.” Schaffer said in the past the district officials laid people off without giving acceptable reasons and were not forthright with the teachers association. “Right now they are pretty much on the up and up.” Schaffer said. “(The district officials) try their best to keep us informed.” Placer Union High School District In addition to credentials, there are add-ons teachers can have, said Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent. The Agriculture Welding Teacher at Placer High School is moving to Del Oro High School. His add-on allows him to teach welding to fulfill Future Farmers of America requirements. The ag-welding teacher is being replaced by a welding career tech education teacher, who lacks the agriculture certification. Both teachers are qualified to teach the welding class and will get the students to the same welding standards. “They might not have the FFA or Ag ad-on, but they are more than qualified to teach welding,” Horsey said. “But it’s problematic for those students involved in FFA.” Horsey said this means the Future Farmers of America students at Placer High will have to take animal husbandry and horticulture classes to meet the Future Farmers requirements, instead of welding. The German program at Placer High School is also experiencing problematic scheduling and cuts. German 1 will not be offered next year. Horsey is unsure if the program will continue. German 2, 3, and 4 will still be offered to serve the students already in the program. “We’re going to continue with the students who signed up for German this year,” Horsey said. “There are a lot of those anomalies out there.” Auburn Union School District Schaffer teaches science at E.V. Cain Middle School. He’s been teaching for 15 years. That fact just barely shielded him from the pink slip threat. Three teachers who have taught for the district for 12 years received pink slips this time around, Schaffer said. “Right now everybody is happy if you have a job,” Schaffer said. “The seniority list is the most important document during layoffs.” Schaffer said 26 individuals received pink slips along with six temporary positions. “Out of a district of about 130 teachers that’s a large chunk,” Schaffer said. Auburn Union School District Superintendent Michele Schuetz said those pink-slipped teachers will hopefully be bumped into other positions and changes will be made well into August. “What we’re trying to do is fill the needs of the program but keep as many people employed as we can,” Schuetz said. “They’ll get a final (notice) but that doesn’t mean they won’t come back.” Once Schuetz knows what the enrollment looks like for the 2010/11 school year she can determine which teachers can come back, but they might not be filling the same position they left. She said they always hire from the layoff list.