Some 50 teachers packed the Santa Paula Elementary School District board room for the special meeting Tuesday night.

SPESD board sends out layoff notices to teachers and administrators

March 09, 2012
Santa Paula News

Trustees of the Santa Paula Elementary School District took action Tuesday night to issue layoff notices to about 36 certificated employees. 

The district is required by state law to notify employees of possible termination in March. The board did this last year, but reinstated most of the employees later.

In closed session the board also voted to issue notices of reassignment or release to certificated administrative employees, a certificated administrator and five temporary certificated employees as of the end of the current school year.

Most of the reductions are hitting the elementary schools, with 20 teachers affected. In addition, Isbell Middle School could lose its music program as well as major cuts in the P.E. program.

Some 50 teachers packed the boardroom for the special meeting. Katie Miller, a 4th grade teacher at Barbara Webster School, sent a letter to the board. She’s taught in the district for 21 years. She talked about the increase in district administrators and administration buildings and she added, “Last year it was heartbreaking to see intelligent, creative, hardworking teachers lose their jobs as a result of where the decision was made to cut costs.” 

Doug Johnston, a 6th grade teacher at Isbell, spoke out on behalf of the P.E. department. “I think it’s one of the best physical education programs I’ve seen in 20 years of teaching,” he said. Johnston said the PE instructors emphasize education. He added, “What comes to mind obviously is the 100 or so kids that want to be part of Cancer Crushers each year.” He noted they’ve raised over $100,000 in the fight against cancer.

Lisa Elliot has taught in the district for 14 years. “In that time I’ve seen a lot of changes and some have been for the better,” she told the board.  She noted she had only one student in math and one in language arts who had not scored at grade level or above, despite having 29 students in her class. “I’m sure I’m not alone in saying how proud I am of the teachers in this district for the work they’ve done to bring about these changes,” she said. “That’s why it pains me to see our district make decisions that can only move us backwards.”

PE teacher Angie Hicks, who has taught at Isbell for 13 years, is one of several in her department to get a layoff notice. She said she was especially disappointed when she heard that most teachers in her department were getting pink slips. “I was disappointed of course to hear so many of the teachers at my school were being pink slipped, but especially our program,” she added. She noted that with one P.E. teacher left and 200 students, “That’s not gong to work out. We have been hit, I believe, disproportionally.”  

Another Isbell teacher, Cari Leidig, received a layoff notice last year, but did not get a pink slip this year. “Most everybody’s been hired back from last year,” she said. “What a waste of resources. A waste of time, of money, of energy, emotion, a waste of morale and teaching time.”

Carolyn Ishida, president of the Santa Paula Federation of Teachers, told the board the layoff resolution was too far reaching. She told trustees, “You reach too far in your layoffs. Are you really gong to have one P.E. teacher left at Isbell School? Are you really going to layoff both band teachers, only to come back three or four months from now when parents start putting on the pressure and say, oh we’re going to reinstate band? Are you really going to take away seven staff members from your Blue Ribbon school that six weeks ago the superintendent was standing there in a photo op, telling everybody we are so proud of this school because only four percent of the schools qualify for Blue Ribbon in the whole 80 years that they qualified for? Are you really going to take away jobs from the school that piloted the new language arts program and now you want everybody else to fall in line behind this program and yet you’re taking away the very people you paid money to train?” She asked the board to re-write the resolution and to remove some of the names on the layoff list.

Board members expressed regret at the action they were taking, but said that felt that they had no other choice. Trustee Tony Perez noted they go through this exercise almost every year.  

“This is the hardest thing that any of us has to do,” he added. “Sometimes we’re looked on as heartless individuals, but that’s not the case. We all have hearts. We all love Santa Paula. For us to have to come together at this time of the year to do the same thing that we did last year - to throw out pink slips and put people’s lives in disarray - does not sit well with me and my colleagues. It’s an unfortunate time that we live in.” He noted that the legislature talks about education being the foundation of our nation, but they keep taking from the schools.

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