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Layoffs looming for 237 teachers

Molly Shore

Preliminary termination notices were handed out to almost 25% of

Burbank teachers this week, a number the Burbank Teacher’s Assn. said

is far too large for a district of Burbank’s size.

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“Glendale, which is two times the size [of Burbank], is sending

out only 50 layoff notices,” BTA co-president Kim Allender said.

The 237 notices come as the district struggles to put together a

budget for the coming fiscal year, when it expects funding cuts of

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$4 million from the state, which has a deficit of more than $30

billion.

One reason for the large number of layoff notices stems from a

district policy of hiring teachers as probationary employees --

rather than offering them year-to-year contracts -- when it replaces

teachers who are on leave, Allender said.

With 50 teachers taking leaves of absence this year, the district

hired 50 new teachers as probationary employees. These teachers

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believed they would pass probation after the required two-year period

and receive permanent status, Allender said.

District Personnel Services Director Nancy Gascich defended the

district’s decision to hire teachers as probationary employees.

“In 1997, when class-size reduction came in, the district needed

so many new teachers -- 60 to 80 every year -- that it must have made

a conscious decision at that time to offer probationary contracts

instead of year-to-year,” Gascich said. “There was a lot of

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attrition, and we wanted to be competitive.”

Now the district has to correct that problem, she said.

“We have [notified] enough people to make sure that we match

temporary contracts to those people out on leave next year,” Gascich

said.

In addition to the teachers, 23 other certificated employees,

including administration employees, psychologists, counselors and

school nurses, received layoff notices.

Delivery of the notices Wednesday does not mean all of the

teachers and other workers will be laid off. The district has until

May 15 to determine who will receive final notices.

District administrators said the notices were sent as part of a

worst-case scenario that includes returning to larger class sizes in

kindergarten through third grade.

Belt-tightening measures to programs and services have not been

enough to eliminate the expected deficit. Gascich said 85% of the

district’s expenditures are tied to personnel costs, leading to the

need for layoff notices.

The teachers who received preliminary notices won’t wait to see if

the layoffs are permanent in May, but will start seeking positions in

other districts, Allender said.

“Right now, the morale is so low, and the teachers are having

difficulty staying in their classrooms because of the major emotional

toll this is taking on them,” said parent Jane Page, whose daughter

attends Jordan Middle School.

Even the students are upset, she said.

“With all the other upsets in the world and with the war jitters,

it’s the worst timing,” Page said. “To have your job taken away, it’s

just too much.”

Students and parents staged a protest against the layoffs Friday

afternoon near Luther Burbank Middle School.

Sonny Sandoval, whose daughter, Natalie, is a sixth-grader at the

school, said teachers should not be laid off.

“Just as we have raised prices on gas, we should raise the prices

on other things to pay for teachers,” Sandoval said, adding that he

would support an increase in taxes to pay teachers’ salaries. “The

kids are our future. If we don’t give them the proper education, what

are we going to have? A Third World nation?”

Allender said teachers will protest the cuts at 5 p.m. Thursday

before the Board of Education meeting at City Hall.


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