66 teachers laid off

GLENDALE — Sixty-six Glendale Unified teachers were laid off Tuesday after the school board voted to adopt a budget that included millions of dollars in funding cuts.

Despite the pleas from parents and teachers, the Board of Education voted unanimously to lay off the teachers, which will mean larger class sizes for some primary-school grades.

"I no longer feel that I'm able to trust either side of the equation," said Carolyn Klas, a Valley View Elementary School parent. "I fear that class-size increase, the item most detrimental to our schools and children, has been lost in the recent conversations."

District officials have cut staff and programs each of the last seven years, board members said, and yet it has done little to erase a structural deficit.

State law requires school districts to maintain balanced budgets for three consecutive years, but Glendale Unified projects a $21.9-million deficit in 2012-13.

School board President Greg Krikorian said the district is prepared to make an offer in negotiations that would bring back all teachers and reduce class sizes.

"We're going to look at ways to bring everybody back with shared responsibility," he said. "There comes a time and place where we have to move forward and look at opportunities like this to bring everyone back."

Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson declined to comment.

Some teachers think they could be back next year, said Kim Hughes, a teacher who was laid off. But many thought the board was bluffing, she said.

"The few people at the top of the seniority list, they are the ones with a chance still," Hughes said in a telephone interview. "Pretty much all the teachers left, it's like polishing the glass on the Titanic — it's pretty pointless when everything is going down."

The layoffs essentially set primary grade class size at 30-to-1 student-teacher ratios. Throughout the year, parents joined Glendale Teachers Assn. rallies and protested larger class sizes and the potential long-term effects on students.

But an independent group of parents who protested outside the Glendale Teachers Assn. office this month delivered a petition on Monday with 365 signitures requesting board members reconsider a 24-to-1 ratio in kindergarten and first grade.

That proposal was withdrawn after the teachers union rejected a tentative contract that officials said would have saved about $12 million through three years of furlough days and increased contributions to health-care costs.

The vote Tuesday could end a legally arduous layoff process that began with 105 teacher pink slips in March. District officials said saving jobs was their top priority, and ultimately saved 39 of them because of their specialized credentials or through internal promotions, retirements and involuntary transfers.

Compounding the district's budget woes is the absence of an agreement with the teachers and school employees unions. The $21.9 million does not take employee furlough days or medical benefit savings into account, Chief Financial Officer Eva Lueck said.

"I don't know what we're going to do," she said.

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