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Morgan Hill
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December 6, 2022

School district ponders layoffs

Facing a $2.8 million deficit, the school district could
eliminate the equivalent of 33 full-time positions, with elementary
schools hit the hardest. The school board plans to vote at
tonight’s meeting to approve the handing out of pink slips to at
least 28 full-time teachers and reorganize 12 elective periods at
the junior high and high school levels.
Facing a $2.8 million deficit, the school district could eliminate the equivalent of 33 full-time positions, with elementary schools hit the hardest. The school board plans to vote at tonight’s meeting to approve the handing out of pink slips to at least 28 full-time teachers and reorganize 12 elective periods at the junior high and high school levels.

District board trustee president Bart Fisher said that figure is based on the “worst-case scenario” that the district will face if they cannot rework the budget to save money in areas other than salaries. Salaries and benefits encompass about 87 percent of the district’s budget. The cuts come after the district sliced about $9 million in the past two years, including 16 classified employees, such as maintenance workers and bus drivers, and several teachers.

The board must approach layoffs with the highest number of positions if it cannot either rearrange funds to avoid layoffs or if the state does not help with additional funding for the 2010-2011 school year.

This news comes as the school district’s March 12 deadline to inform staff quickly approaches.

“(The letters) will be handed out one by one personally,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jay Totter said. If someone is not at work that day, he said, the letter will be delivered by mail.

The “pink slips” are formal written notices letting an employee know that they may be released, demoted or reassigned, according to the Association of California School Administrators Web site. It’s too early to tell when teachers will know exactly if they have jobs with the district next year, said the board’s Vice President Peter Mandel, but the letters can be withdrawn as the board moves along and finds funds to keep that position. Superintendent Wesley Smith and the board are being as transparent as possible by giving them some time and warning and treating employees with respect during these difficult times, Fisher said.

Those on the chopping block are broken down by grade for the elementary level (all are full-time positions) and then by program for junior high and high school: Five kindergarten teachers, at least eight first-grade, nine second-grade and at least five third-grade; and in middle school the board will cut one period each of guitar, foods, photo and computer application and two periods of drama. At the high-school level, one period of the following electives will be reduced: digital photo, computer application, woodworking and child care, and two periods of fashion design.

Atop these cuts are also a part-time Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment consulting teacher and two Alameda County Collaborative for Learning and Instruction in Mathematics teachers. At final count, the school district could lose the equivalent of 32.9 full-time positions.

The cuts, the board asserts, are not coming as a huge surprise to district teachers and staff. Trustee Kathy Sullivan said the board is grateful that the district is in better shape than others in the Bay Area.

“Many terrible cuts surround the district and any time we have to make cuts it hurts everybody – the kids most of all,” Sullivan said.

The MHUSD noted that temporary positions would be eliminated first, then probationary positions, such as those who are not tenured. But the cuts could come at different levels based on the needs for each school.

The elimination of 28 positions at the elementary level would increase class sizes above the current 20 to 1 ratio in some kindergarten through third-grade classes.

There is a bit of flexibility with that number, but as the increase of students to one teacher climbs so do penalties by the state government, Mandel said. The district will look at all options to lower spending, including increasing class sizes in order to reduce the number of teachers needed. Once the budget is crunched it could prove to be more cost-effective to increase the pupil-to-teacher ratio and lose the state funding for that program, over keeping classes small and needing more teachers, and, of course, more money to pay them.

“If you move the ratio higher, you move to fewer teachers needed,” trustee Fisher said. But cutting from a specific grade level, “does not mean that that teacher leaves the district.” Teachers may be moved around if for example a teacher in a grade level that is reduced could move to another grade that is needed.

The junior high and high school electives that are up for evaluation would be eliminated and those electives would then be translated into a different kind of course offering. The designated junior high and high school instructors who teach the elective courses would turn those class periods into more study of a core subject or possibly other remedial classes.

But with the state’s budget in dire straights, Fisher said he can’t say if the board will be able to rescind the pink slips this time.

“We have to make (the cuts now) before the state. And we have to go where, frankly, we scare some people, but it’s the structure of how we have to do it,” Fisher said.

Mandel echoed what many other board staff have said: options are few for the district and no one wants to see any teacher layoffs.

“There aren’t many options and we’re well-versed in the possibilities,” Mandel said. “None of the possibilities are going to be good.”

The resolution is expected to be passed at tonight’s meeting and at a later date a budget committee will make recommendations to Smith who will then submit a final plan to the board.

“The timing is bad,” Mandel said, because the board is forced to inform employees who may not be laid off in the end and well before they know how much the state might add to their coffers.

The district has also approved and released a list of tenured staff who are ranked in order from one to 443; with the those first on the list hired in the 1970s and at the end are teachers who were hired in August 2009. The list is not a sure-fire display of who may or may not be laid off in the district though. The choice of which personnel will be laid off will not be based solely on the seniority list but also on the needs at each school, such as teachers who have additional certifications for special education and speech or specialization in science and math.

All school teachers fall under the “certificated staff” umbrella, including some high-level administration employees. Classified staff are secretaries, food-service workers, grounds keepers, instructional aides – not classroom teachers.

“We’ve cut our classified staff a lot and I would look to preserve classified staff. They’re a vital service,” Fisher said.

He added that the saying, “‘We need to cut as far away from the classroom as possible,’ used at times in budget discussions, was not true and that every level you make a cut it makes an impact on the school and the children.”

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