SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : School Board Blasted Over Layoff Notices

The president of the teachers' union blasted officials of the Capistrano Unified School District this week for sending out 285 preliminary layoff notices to district personnel.

The district's Board of Trustees voted earlier this month to send the notices to the teachers and administrators by Sunday in order to meet a state deadline.

They said the layoffs will occur only if the district fails to find another solution to balancing what could be a projected $7-million to $10-million budget deficit.

Ric Stephenson, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Assn., said the number of layoff notices was "excessive" and an "overreaction" to the budget situation.

"This kind of thing disrupts a lot of people's lives," Stephenson said. "I don't consider it to be in the best interests of our employees. It was not necessary. These teachers are totally demoralized right now."

In addition to the layoff notices, 74 employees received notification that they may be reassigned to another position or subject area in the district, Stephenson said.

Supt. James A. Fleming had recommended that trustees approve layoff notices for 90 first-year teachers and for 64 other certificated positions, including 15 assistant elementary school principals and 27 high school physical education teachers.

But a majority of the board said they wanted more flexibility when making final budget decisions later this year and opted to include 130 teachers hired for the 1990-91 school year in the layoff notification.

"To me, it's absolutely ludicrous that we are forced to make these decisions prior to our budget being set," said Trustee Marlene Draper. "We don't want to see any teachers laid off, but in order to have the most flexibility when trying to set the budget for next year, unfortunately, these notices had to go out."

Stephenson was also critical of the district because he said the layoff notices included some employees who had been teaching in the district for more than two years, including a physical education teacher who was hired in 1980.

"Some of the layoff notices exceeded the mandate of the school board, which was teachers hired within the last two years," Stephenson said.

Final layoff notices for certified positions must be issued by May 15.

District staff will present trustees with an initial proposed list of budget reductions in April. The board will be presented with a final proposed budget in the beginning of June for discussion and adopt a final 1992-93 budget on June 15 after a public hearing.

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