Elementary teachers challenge lay-off notices

April 18, 2003
Santa Paula News
The Santa Paula Federation of Teachers has requested hearings on behalf of 59 teachers and counselors who received lay-off notices from the district last month. By Brian D. WilsonSanta Paula TimesThe Santa Paula Federation of Teachers has requested hearings on behalf of 59 teachers and counselors who received lay-off notices from the district last month.SPFT President, Connie Bennett, stated that all the district’s teachers were shocked at the threatened lay-off of about 25 percent of the teaching staff. “We understand that there is a degree of budget uncertainty due to the financial crisis in Sacramento. But, there is no possible scenario that would justify laying off this many teachers,” Bennett said. “All the affected teachers were recruited and trained by the district. They have all worked hard and their loss would jeopardize the quality of education in Santa Paula beyond measure. It would be difficult even to assure the safety of students on campus with this deep a cut to the teaching and counseling staff,” she added.A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April 17 and 18 at 10:00 a.m. at the Glen City School Cafeteria by the State of California Office of Administrative Hearings.
SPFT Vice President Carolyn Ishida said she’s never seen teacher morale so low. “It’s stretching the guidelines of professionalism,” she said. “We’ve had no supplies all year. Teachers have had to pay themselves for the curriculum that they’ve asked us to use in terms of the science program and then they turn around and try to reduce our staff by 25 percent. It literally has crushed everyone. They’re shaking their heads like what did we do? We were professional. We worked with the district. We put up with severe working conditions. We’ve bought our own supplies to the tune of $1200 per teacher. It truly is a slap in the face by the district and they’re demoralized.”Bennett and Ishida said they were completely caught by surprise at the action by the district. Ishida noted that the union leadership has communicated with the superintendent on a monthly basis. “We asked them, are there going to be any layoff notices?” Ishida said. “We were given the impression that there would not until Friday, the day of the Job Fair, that they sent out 59 notices and we received a phone call. I was told by a new teacher that, at the Job Fair they were taking applications from teachers the same day.”Ed lacey, the Ventura attorney retained to represent the teachers at the hearing said the hearing is run like a miniature trial. Attorneys for both sides will present their cases and witnesses to support their positions. “What we’re hoping we can do is persuade the administrative law judge to recommend to the district that this severe an action is not required, is not supported by the facts,” Lacey said. Whatever recommendation the judge makes is not binding on the district.

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