PUSD Board Unanimously Approves Issuing Layoff Notices to 64 Certificated Employees

Board members were not happy with the decision they had to make Tuesday night, but all agreed the cuts were necessary because of the state's financial situation

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch and Sierra Madre Patch, 3/9/2011

Despite some reluctance from a couple of board members, the school board unanimously passed a resolution at a sparsely attended meeting Tuesday night to reduce or eliminate 64 full-time equivalent positions in the district, including teachers, teachers' aides, librarians, and principals.
The district has until March 15 to issue the layoff notices to the 64 certificated employees in order for the board to make the layoffs an official possibility for next year, but even the notices would not commit the board to finalizing the layoffs just yet.
"The worst thing I think we have to do as a board is to even warn somebody that their job is in jeopardy and then making good on that," said board president Bob Harrison. "In the education field I think we've been forced to head in the wrong direction on this, and there's no doubt about that."
However, he added he feels this is a "necessary requirement to give (the district) the flexibility so we can meet head on the situation (of) not knowing what the future will bring here with our state and our finances."
Outgoing Superintendent Edwin Diaz put the resolution to reduce employees in context during the meeting by pointing out that this time last year the district issued 160 layoff notices. According to Diaz, 57 of those positions were officially eliminated.
"What this resolution accomplishes is prioritizing class size so we don't increase class size above this year's level," said Diaz.
Board member Tom Selinske pointed out that the district has also made significant administrative cuts.
"If we were looking at prioritizing administrative cuts we really are taking that as a priority of keeping the cuts away from the classroom," said Selinske. "So if we were to do the math, I'm sure we'd have a lot larger percentage of administrative cuts. I know I don't wish to do any of these, and I understand we're trying to minimize the impact on people's lives, although I know to help us get flexibility with any of our potential budget scenarios we have to do this."
Diaz added that none of the resignations and retirements since the district issued those layoff notices last year were factored into the cuts being made now.
"In other words this number will be reduced by anybody who retires or resigns who is certificated," said Diaz.
Board member Ed Honowitz, however, was quick to point out that the number would be reduced unless the state takes even more from local school district budgets.
"We may need the full amount of this to give us enough flexibility in the worst case scenario," he said. "We have to remind ourselves that in the last three years over 30,000 teachers lost their jobs in the state of California plus another 10,000 educators. All of these are people who have been working with our kids who are no longer going to be there, and even though we'll be able to call back some of these who may get noticed, we're still getting a net reduction in the number of adults interacting with kids in the district, and that's happening in districts all over the state, and that's been happening year after year after year."