Washington Elementary School first-grade teacher Jessica Wertlieb
went to City Hall this week in a fight to keep her job.
She was one of about 300 teachers and residents who gathered
there Thursday night before the Burbank Unified School District
school board meeting, protesting the preliminary termination notices
that 250 teachers received March 12.
“I know that I’m a good teacher and I’ve worked really hard for
this district, and to receive this letter, it feels like, ‘Thanks,
but goodbye,’ ” she said.
Although Wertlieb does not know if she will receive a final layoff
notice, which must go out by May 15, she said she has to assume she
will get one.
Wertlieb could offer no solution to the district’s budget
problems, but said whatever the problems are, they are not worth the
risk of losing teachers.
The rally was organized by the Burbank Teachers’ Assn. Union
Co-president Kim Allender urged those assembled to contact state
elected officials, as well as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in his
Washington, D.C., office, to protest teacher cuts.
John Burroughs High School English teacher Samuel Kuglen has
taught in the district for seven years and is among the 46% of the
teaching staff at the school who received preliminary notices.
“I think the total cuts [the district] made are 10 times as much as they needed to make,” Kuglen said.
School board candidate Larry Applebaum, who was also at the
protest, agreed. He said no one has been able to come up with a
reason why the district needed to send out so many notices.
“Potential layoff cuts amount to $12 million to $15 million, yet
that’s three times the worst-case scenario,” Applebaum said of the
district’s projected $4-million deficit due to state funding cuts.
He believes the board should have asked district administrators to
account for the number of layoff notices were sent out.
District Supt. Gregory Bowman said when the district went to
reduced class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, it was
necessary to hire additional teachers. These teachers were hired at
the same time, and none of these new teachers had more seniority, so
they all received layoff notices, he said. Not all of the teachers
who received notices are expected to be laid off, but without a
budget from the state, officials said the district cannot know how
many teachers will have to be let go.