Preliminary layoff notices will start going out Tuesday to 177 teachers, some part-time and some full-time, in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District. Teachers receiving the notices will include 107 elementary teachers, at least 20 at the middle school level and an estimated 28 at the high school level. The district currently employs 937 teachers.
“This is not a mechanical reading of numbers,” said board member Ken Dickson. “We realize these are people.”
District officials said they held a previous meeting with the teachers whose jobs may be in jeopardy, and that it will not come as a surprise.
“For the teachers, it will definitely seem more real,” said Chuck Smith, president of the Murrieta Teachers Association, after a special board meeting held Monday by the district.
The district remains in negotiations with both its teachers’ and classified staff unions, as it attempts to mitigate a $14 million expected budget gap for the next school year. Depending on the outcome of the continuing dialogues and any concessions made, the number of teachers the district could keep in employment may change.
“The negotiations are going cooperatively,” Smith said. “Our No. 1 goal is to mitigate as much loss as possible.”
Neither Smith nor Assistant Superintendent Pat Kelley could give a definite timeframe as to when an agreement would be reached, nor would they elaborate on the details of any proposed measures.
“Certainly the hope is that an agreement will be reached that will allow the district to rescind those notices,” said Karen Parris, spokesperson for the district. “This is the first step in the process; this is not the last step.”
Monday’s meeting was also called to vote on a five percent reduction in salary schedule for principals and assistant principals, as well as for classified management and certificated management, many of whom work at the district office. The board unanimously approved the resolutions, which will result in decreased work days for the affected employees and a total savings of $917,361 for the district in 2010/2011. The pay reductions are effective July 1.
“We are cutting the salary by 5 percent of some people who are very important to our district,” board member Kris Thomasian said.
Previously, a 7.25 percent pay cut was approved for senior management, such as assistant superintendents and Superintendent Stan Scheer. Other areas of savings already in place for the district include $3.4 million from an early retirement incentive for which retirees’ positions will not be filled, as well as $1.9 million from the release of temporary/substitute employees.
Board members said they still want to hold onto the two main goals of the district: the integrity of its programs and its employees.
“A couple of us have daughters who are teachers,” Thomasian said. “We are hopeful there are still solutions out there (to save some of the positions). This is, again, because of what is going on with the state budget.”
California school districts are required to deliver the tentative layoff notices by March 15. Employees on notice then have the right to a hearing to determine whether seniority was correctly applied. The district has until May 15 to issue its final layoff notices.
“We have deadlines, unfortunately, and we have to act accordingly,” said board clerk Paul Diffley. “We are still hopeful that we can retain all the employees and all the programs.”
Board member Ken Dickson said the actions taken in Monday’s meeting will protect the fiscal integrity of the district.
“We have to be prepared to suffer the worst case scenario,” Dickson said.