Getting Cut From the Team : . . . That Puts Many at the Mercy of Enrollment Figures

Times Staff Writer

"Excess" is a dirty word for most of the 5,000 teachers in the San Diego Unified School District.

For any teacher declared excess toward the end of a school year, it means an involuntary transfer to another school or designation as a substitute teacher the next September, with layoff possible within a year if another position cannot be found.

This spring, 50 to 60 city teachers will be declared excess, probably all of them at secondary schools, because of declining enrollments, according to district personnel administrators.

"The list is put together school by school, after a principal projects the enrollment for the following year and determines that there is going to be a decline in the number of kids," said George Flanigan, district personnel director for teachers.

"That means that the number of faculty positions allotted to the school is going to go down. . . . Basically, the formula is one teacher per 30 kids," said Flanigan.

For several years now, secondary-school enrollment has been declining slightly while that of elementary students has been growing. So the problem of excess teachers centers on the upper grades.

The effect of declining enrollment affects teachers unequally, depending on the credential they have for a particular subject specialty; seniority; and any extraordinary qualifications, such as the ability to teach bilingual classes.

Most of the excess teachers have come from the industrial arts, physical education and fine arts.

Flanigan said that, because of Proposition 13,

summer-school classes were cut back substantially, eliminating a major way for students to satisfy English, math and other core course requirements so they can take other electives such as art or electrical shop during the regular school year. Students now must take the core academic courses during the year, and have less time for the electives.

Also, physical education was made an elective for high school juniors and seniors during the mid-1970s, eliminating a large pool of classes, he said.

"The credential is probably the most important factor, followed by seniority," Flanigan said. "You can have all the seniority in the world, but if you don't have the necessary credential (for a particular subject) it's not very helpful."

A school principal applies the credential and seniority tests after determining what subject areas at the school will show declining enrollments. The list of excess teachers is then sent to Flanigan's office .

"We then try to meet with the person, determine what his or her interests are, and find out if there's a job available at some other senior or junior high," Flanigan said.

Multiple Credentials Help

"It's up to us to try and find a place for them in the fall," he said, adding that it helps such teachers to have more than a single subject credential.

In some cases, an excess teacher with high seniority can "bump" a teacher at another school in the same subject who has fewer years of service. The second teacher then becomes excess.

Vacancies will occur in secondary schools because of teacher retirements this summer.

"We do have that replacement factor, so we should be able to place a lot of excess teachers," Flanigan said. However, the district will hire few if any new teachers for secondary positions unless a particular specialty is needed--when a German teacher has retired, for instance--and the vacancy cannot be filled from the excess pool.

"It's to our benefit to place all these teachers, because in the fall, if we haven't done so, we have a budget overrun situation where we are paying teachers who aren't teaching," Flanigan said. "And the teacher doesn't like it, either."

Used as Substitutes

If the teachers cannot be placed, they are basically used as substitutes, Flanigan said. By the next January, if permanent placement still looks bleak, the procedure for layoff notification is begun.

Last month, layoff notifications went out to 12 teachers still on the excess list from last year. Because of some special retirements and reassignments since then, six actually received official layoff notices this week.

"Very definitely, at that point, we counsel them on possibly trying to find a different line of work," Flanigan said. "But the situation is never easy."

There is one exception to the policy of giving excess teachers first crack at vacancies. During May, schools may post present vacancies, and any teacher in the district with the proper credential and wishing to transfer schools can bid for a vacant position elsewhere on the basis of seniority alone.

For example, the post-and-bid procedure may allow key science and math teachers at the troubled Gompers Secondary School to leave for similar positions in other schools if such positions are advertised. Any excess teachers in those subject areas would then be offered the vacated Gompers positions during the summer.

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