School board OKs 17 teacher layoffs

   In a special meeting Monday, Ramona school trustees approved sending final layoff notices to 17 teachers.

   The action is among steps the district is taking to help offset a projected budget deficit of $8.3 million in the next school year.

   Rodger Dohm, school board president, said eliminating teachers is the last thing the school board wants to do, but its responsibility is to keep the district fiscally solvent.

   To comply with state law, the district must send final layoff notices to teachers by May 15.

   Eleven of the layoff notices will go to elementary teachers and six to secondary teachers.

   “Although the board has little alternative in this extremely challenging economy both at the state and federal level, board members join all other employees in the disappointment and grief at the prospect of reducing our current work force through the elimination of so many outstanding, young educators,” Supt. Dr. Robert Graeff wrote in his board meeting highlights to district employees.

   Also on Monday, the school board postponed until May 20 voting on recommended layoffs and reductions in hours for the district’s support staff, represented by the California School Employees Association (CSEA). Support staff employees are scheduled to vote May 18 on a proposal that, if ratified, would cut the number of layoffs and work hours being considered, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joe Annicharico.

   CSEA has proposed a voluntary pay cut to offset some of the proposed cuts in support staff, and five holidays now paid will be unpaid, Graeff said on Tuesday.

   State budget uncertainties and a proposed change in state law regarding pay for laid-off tenured teachers who substitute are among unknowns the district faces. The governor is scheduled to release a revised budget proposal on Friday, but neither Graeff nor Donna Braye-Romero, president of the Ramona teachers union, expects much to change.

   Earlier in the school year, 16 teachers accepted early retirement incentives projected to save the district $1.4 million.

   The layoffs approved Monday are expected to save the district about $835,000, said Graeff.

   If circumstances change, some of the layoffs could be rescinded. The Ramona Teachers Association and the district’s negotiators held their first face-to-face negotiation session Tuesday. Braye-Romero said the teachers have given the district about 15 suggestions.

   “We’re going to work with the district to meet the needs of the district in whatever way we can, based on the actuals,” she said. “We want to find out what the actual budget is. Now it’s a proposed budget...It always changes when the actual money comes.”

   The district and the teachers union have their eyes on a state proposal that, if approved, would change how laid-off tenured teachers are paid as substitutes. Tenured teachers who are laid off have first rights to substitute in the district at a per diem pay much higher than a regular substitute, said Graeff. If the law remains as it is, it would be more advantageous to take the elementary teachers back, he and Braye-Romero said.

   “We’re waiting to see what happens with that before we decide to do anything else,” said  Braye-Romero.

   The 11 elementary teacher layoffs would increase class size in kindergarten through grade 3 to 24 students per teacher. The ratio this year is 21:1, said Braye-Romero. If that happens, the district would receive less Class Size Reduction money from the state, which gives districts money as an incentive to limit K-3 classes to 20 or fewer students.

   
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