District lays off more than two dozen teachers 

Teachers with the county Office of Education are wearing pink ribbons this week in a show of solidarity with more than two dozen educators who recently received layoff notices.

Twenty-eight, or almost 13 percent, of the district’s 217 teachers, have received pink slips, putting them on notice that their jobs could be terminated over the summer as the Office of Education continues to lose special education students as more return to their local districts.

Janice Pellizzari, co-president of the local teachers’ union, said teachers plan to rally Wednesday at the county Board of Education meeting to complain to trustees.

"Laying off teachers is always difficult," Office of Education Superintendent Jean Holbrook said.

The layoff notices from the Office of Education — which is primarily responsible for student special education and vocational programs in the county — highlight the ongoing policy by local districts to take back as many special education kids as possible, according to Holbrook.

In past years, local districts have contracted with the Office of Education to serve special education needs, but following the discovery of funding irregularities and a change in the state funding formula last year, some local districts began putting an end to that practice in an attempt to save money.

Special education classes under the Office of Education were cut by 13 this year. Another 22 are forecast to be eliminated next year, reducing the total number to 60, Assistant Superintendent Tom Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.

Over the same time period, the total number of teachers working for the Office of Education has dropped from 251 to 217, Fitzpatrick said.

While Board of Education trustee Susan Alvaro understands teachers’ frustration, the hiring and firing of teachers is purely a matter for the Office of Education and Holbrook, who is an elected official herself.

"The fact is, that as [local districts] take back classes we don’t have the classes to support the number of teachers anymore," Alvaro said.

While local districts have rehired many of the teachers that have been let go or chose to leave, some have been forced to take jobs at a lower salary, Pellizzari said. "Some teachers, for example, those going back to the San Mateo-Foster City School District, are taking pay cuts in order to have a job," Pellizzari said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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