San Francisco's teachers union has slammed the school board’s decision to issue layoff notices to nearly 500 employees while setting aside seniority to save jobs at 14 schools in the Mission and the Bayview.
“It’s arbitrary; it’s based on geography,” Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco, said of Tuesday’s decision by the board.
The board is legally obligated to notify employees of potential layoffs by March 15. In previous years, the district’s financial picture improved, and most layoffs were rescinded by the time a final budget was approved.
Pink slips have become an annual ritual as the San Francisco Unified School District continues to face budget shortfalls, but layoffs must be made according to seniority. The board’s decision to skip 70 teachers at 14 disadvantaged schools was new this year.
Since 2010, the district has concentrated resources on those schools to bring up test scores of low-income and minority students. The district has spent millions of dollars on professional development and teacher coaching, and officials want to protect that investment.
Martin Gomez, the principal at one such school, John O’Connell High School, was grateful his teachers would be protected. “The big thing I see is just stability within our community, how important it is, especially for O’Connell,” he said.
Gomez said his school would lose at least 16 percent of its staff if the layoffs went strictly by seniority. He estimated that the disruption could set O’Connell back three years.
However, union leaders argued that there are many schools with similar proportions of disadvantaged students and similar scores on statewide exams beyond the 14. They said seniority is the only fair way to determine who will be laid off.
“What you’re doing is you’re looking at two teachers who are entirely identical, it’s apples to apples, and saying this apple is better because it sits on this shelf,” Kelly said.
Megan Caluza, a special-education teacher at El Dorado Elementary School in Visitacion Valley, said her school’s demographics were comparable to the so-called Superintendent’s Zone schools.
“I can’t argue against protecting schools in need,” she said. “But by only protecting schools that have a label of ‘Superintendent’s Zone,’ they’re missing more than two dozen schools that serve disadvantaged children.”
Patrick Delaney, a librarian at Galileo High School, said that his colleagues felt “demoralized.”
“These kids come from poor families,” he said of his students. “The instability that the superintendent wants to avoid in those schools, he’s going to visit on us.”
The decision to waive seniority, which was based on a section of the education code that permits skipping layoffs for “special training and experience,” must be reviewed by an administrative law judge. A spokeswoman said hearings would begin in April.
The school board approved issuing pink slips Tuesday night.
485 Full-time equivalent teaching positions*
210 Instructional positions (teachers, nurses, counselors, etc.)
35 Early-education employees
$83.3 million to $119.4 million Projected budget deficit over the next two years
* Two or more part-time positions can make up a full-time equivalent.