Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 4:26 am | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

51 Teachers To Receive Layoff Notices

Blaming budget crisis and eroding enrollment, Santa Barbara School District will begin notifications today.

Fifty-one teachers will receive layoff notices this week, as the Santa Barbara school board sharpens the knife for what could be one of the district’s deepest budget cuts in years.

The board’s decision Tuesday night to authorize administrators to deliver the notices marked the beginning of a painful process to carve $4 million out of the K-12 school system’s $93 million discretionary budget.

The layoff notices are mostly the result of a $16 billion deficit at the state level, which led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to propose cutting a record $4.8 billion from public schools. However, in Santa Barbara 14 of the 51 notices are due to declining enrollment, officials said. The district employs about 900 teachers.

The move doesn’t necessarily mean all the teachers will be laid off, but rather grants the district freedom to shed that many jobs should the current gloomy budget projections hold steady. By law, school districts in California must notify teachers and counselors who may be laid off by March 15.

The pink slips will go exclusively to teachers in the junior high and high schools, because those are the grades that currently are posting a decline in enrollment, school officials said.

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, Kristine Robertson, the district’s personnel director, will begin hand-delivering the notices immediately. On Wednesday morning, she plans to visit La Cumbre and Santa Barbara junior high schools, as well as Santa Barbara High, she said.

“It’s not the best part of my job, but having the chance to go out and talk with them personally is important to me,” she said.

The layoff notices will be given to teachers with the least amount of seniority, and distributed evenly across every discipline. In other words, 2 percent of the teachers in every department will receive one, Robertson said. If carried out in full, the layoffs would save the district $2.5 million, she said. The district also may try to reduce the number of necessary layoffs by offering veteran teachers a "golden handshake" retirement plan.

Tuesday night’s discussion did not occur without a round of trademark bickering between school board trustee Bob Noel and his colleagues. Noel voiced his dismay about how, in his view, the board was being asked to authorize layoffs before having a more global discussion about which programs should be cut.

“We should be having a debate that trades off the cost of teachers versus the cost of lawyers, the cost of teachers versus the cost of free transportation for students, the cost of teachers versus the cost of consultants,” he said.

Noel added that he believed some more administrative reductions could be made, in addition to the three-and-a-half positions Superintendent Brian Sarvis has already recommended cutting.

Trustee Kate Parker pointed out that a few weeks ago, Noel had voted, along with the rest of the board, on a timeline on how to proceed with the budget cuts. Trustee Annette Cordero asked Noel why he hasn’t offered to put any alternative proposals on the agenda.

Noel answered that he didn’t trust Sarvis to portray his alternative suggestions in the way he intended.

At one point, Sarvis told Noel he was out of line.

“Bob, I think this is symptomatic of your tendency to remember things differently after they happened,” he said. “Now you’re pointing your finger at everyone around the table, and I think that’s completely unfair.”

Noel answered that he was really only pointing his finger at Sarvis.

“I think you’re out of line, too,” he replied, saying he believed Sarvis was trying to manipulate the process of making the cuts in an effort to protect the administration.

In the end, the board approved the 51 layoff notices in a 3-1 decision, with Noel casting the lone no vote. (School board trustee Nancy Harter was absent.)

Also on Tuesday, in a related matter, the board voted 3-1, again with Noel dissenting, to spend $35,000 on a consultant who will poll local voters to get a sense of their support for a parcel tax that would bring money into the schools. A vote for a parcel tax could occur during the November presidential election. Noel said he found it difficult to justify spending that much money on a consultant at a time when the district was so short on funds.

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