Layoff plan for teachers approved
By Bret Bradigan
Ojai Unified School District board of trustees
began a marathon session Tuesday night with pleas for peace and
ended with bellicose statements about Sacramento budgeteers.
During the three-and-a-half hour meeting, they approved a plan
to give notice to 26 teachers that their services may not be
required next school year, not including 19 notices sent to teachers
in temporary positions and to six interns. With teachers returning
from leave and other assignments, 12.4 positions are being eliminated.
The meeting, however, began with a wider, global, focus.
David Howard, a teacher at private Oak Grove School, and Nordhoff
High School teacher Dennis Daneau urged the board to support
a resolution defying the provisions of the federal No Child Left
Behind Act that requires schools to provide student information
to the Department of Defense. Daneau said that it appeared that
military recruiters were already receiving special privileges
at Nordhoff campus showing up without notice and mingling
freely with students.
The fact that the military discriminates against gays and lesbians,
he said, was in violation of the civil rights laws that schools
follow with other employers, and so the resolution, drafted by
the Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, said "the Board will
provide equal time and space for peace career recruiters, anti-war
activists and gay and lesbian rights spokespersons, whenever
military recruiters are on campus."
All the resolution sought, Daneau said, was that the school board
"follow the law in the way that best represents the students
and parents of Ojai."
Margot Eiser said through the act, proof of the federal government's
"the lack of value for education and human life is demonstrated.
Another parent said "Our children are being targeted for
Sanderson Beck, who described himself as "a candidate for
President of the United States of America," spoke about
"the strong tendency in this country toward fascism,"
and called the likely U.S. military action against Iraq "war
crimes. We have a responsibility to not be complicit in these
international crimes." He also urged the board to stop sending
the federal government payroll taxes and let employees decide
whether to pay taxes. "The biggest terrorist organization
in the world today is the United States government."
Superintendent Van Riley said the administration was investigating
the provisions and penalties of the No Child Left Behind Act
and would make a report to the board at the March 18 meeting.
The board then voted, 4-1, with board member Bob Unruhe making
an impassioned dissent to send a message to the state about the
dire fiscal fix in which it has left school districts, to send
XX ??? notices of nonrenewal to the teachers based on their tenure
Board member Rikki Horne thanked Christine Golden for her service
as principal of Matilija Junior High School the past two years.
"You've contributed a lot to the community," she said.
Golden announced last week that she was retiring after this year,
and Assistant Superintendent Jim Berube, a long-time veteran
administrator at Matilija, was returning. Before board discussion
and vote, Riley said "Probably all 1,000 districts in the
state are going through the same process," and said that
it was likely many of the teachers who received notices would
retain their jobs, as grants paid for some positions and other
teachers continued their leaves of absence or transfers. The
total number of positions reduced was planned at 24.9, according
to Riley's summary.
The reductions are done according to a careful plan, Riley said,
as it was likely that an administrative law judge would arbitrate
any disputes. For instance, tiebreaker preference was based on
the needs of the districts for teachers with science and math
credentials, or who trained in bilingual teaching. All other
things being equal, the last six digits of the teachers' Social
Security numbers would be the deciding factor.
Classroom sizes at the high school level will likely increase
from an average of 32 students to 31 as a result of position
reductions, though the district earlier voted to retain the class-size
reduction program for grades kindergarten through third grade.
Board member Kathi Smith said that she feared more stories like
she'd heard at the Feb. 25 special meeting at Nordhoff with
the student Senate, where classroom overcrowding was so bad that
students had to sit on lab tables. "Let's make sure that
students involved are at least served with facilities and books,"
she said. Riley assured her that declining enrollment was taking
care of that problem; in fact, some schools had plenty of spare
Unruhe said, in his dissent, "We're losing a lot of our
very best young teachers here in the district" and decried
the 1 percent raise given to teachers this year. "That's
almost an insult to give a raise of 1 percent," he said.
"We're essentially asking the employees to subsidize the
district. I didn't run (for school board) to downgrade or dismantle
the school system."
Riley said that Unruhe's lone dissent vote "was voting to
give up responsibility as a board member and voting to give up
(operations of Ojai schools) to the state." Board President
Tim Peddicord said "I don't like messing with peoples' lives,"
but "I have no faith that the state could do a better job."
Smith said, "It's not like you could scratch your head and
come up with the right answer. There are no right answers."
In other business, Doug Becker presented plans for an amphitheatre
at San Antonio Elementary School that would be shared with Summit
Elementary, reducing costs of assemblies. Becker said that the
Rotary Club International, celebrating its 100th year in 1905,
had indicated that it would take this on as their project, covering
as much as $40,000 of the construction cost, reducing the district's
liability to $15,000 with the Parent Teacher Organization taking
on the remaining $5,000. "I know these are difficult times,"
he said, "but it's important to keep improving things to
keep the schools as good as they can be."
The district's budget officer, Danielle Pusatere, said that a
change in the way the state paid the schools was creating a cash-flow
shortage. The state was deferring its June payment to Ojai Unified,
about $630,000, to July, in a cost-saving measure. Though the
books would still balance, the district needed to dip into its
3 percent reserve fund to pay bills in June. In her financial
projections, she also noted that the district's hard times would
likely continue through next year, as this year's mid-year reductions
were merely postponed.
The board also voted to dispose of an inventory list of property
valued at less than $2,500. Items include overhead projector,
computer and monitor, record player, vacuum cleaners and an IBM
Selectric II typewriter. Berube said that the previous time the
district held a sale to dispose of these items, "We ended
up losing money" when staff time was figured into the expense.
In response to a board question, he said the public was welcome
to make an offer on those items.
The Ojai Valley News
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