Board votes for teacher layoffs; SFUSD tried to shield schools in poorer areas 

click to enlarge Protest: Teacher Darcie Chan Blackburn, left, criticizes cuts along with teachers union supporters. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Protest: Teacher Darcie Chan Blackburn, left, criticizes cuts along with teachers union supporters.

San Francisco’s school board voted Tuesday to lay off 218 faculty and staff, including 65 at the Superintendent’s Zones in the Mission and Bayview whom the district had hoped to spare by casting aside seniority.

That plan suffered a blow Monday when an administrative law judge determined that the teachers in those 14 schools, which primarily serve underprivileged students, did not have “special training and experience” to teach “a specific course of study” as state education code requires in order to cast aside seniority. The decision did not affect the San Francisco Unified School District’s ability to skip special education, bilingual, math and science teachers.

The district’s human resources staff recommended the board vote to ignore the judge’s nonbinding decision, but the board voted 6-1 to accept it and send layoff notices based on seniority. Kim-Shree Maufas was the sole opposing vote.

Guadalupe Guerrero, the assistant superintendent in charge of schools in the Mission, said district officials were disappointed by the judge’s ruling.

“I worry about our schools being demoralized and set back from a lot of the good things that have been happening,” Guerrero said. “These schools have always suffered from instability. ... Our kids are going to feel this the most.”

The district had argued that its investment in the zones, including millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grant funding that has covered professional development and teacher coaching, would be lost if those educators were laid off. Even though historically most layoffs have been rescinded by the time the new school year begins, district officials said they worry some teachers might resign in order to avoid the uncertainty.

“They’re going to be a hot commodity in another district,” Guerrero said. “We don’t want to lose that human capital.”

District officials were disappointed by the judge’s decision, but it is expected to galvanize the teachers union, which has been involved in heated contract negotiations with the district and strongly opposed the seniority plan.

“There can be no joy over this, because this was a vote to lay people off, but seniority was restored,” said Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco.  

The union held a protest outside district headquarters before the board meeting. School officials say they will be more than $35 million in debt at the end of next year if the union does not make concessions; the union says the district is exaggerating its hardship.

Talks stalled this week, and the district has asked the state to send a mediator. Spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said school officials hoped to hear the state’s decision by Thursday. That is the same day the union will hold an initial vote to authorize a strike.

Education pink slips

  • 218 Full-time equivalent teaching and administrator positions cut Tuesday*
  • 333 Preliminary layoff notices sent in February
  • 65 Layoffs in the Superintendent’s Zones
  • $83.3M Projected budget deficit over the next two years

* Two or more part-time positions can make up a full-time equivalent
Source: SFUSD

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