Almost 15 Denair school jobs cut

naustin@modbee.comJuly 17, 2013 

The Denair Unified School District missed a crucial deadline to lay off teachers, but took advantage of a loophole in state notification laws to double the hours it cut and ensure it will not face state takeover.

Trustees voted 3-0 Wednesday night, with Carolyn Brown absent, to approve cutting the equivalent of 14.78 full-time jobs, affecting roughly two dozen people. The cuts include three full-time positions and a slew of mostly one-period losses for high school teachers that the board approved in February. Now, seven classroom teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade and two teachers at its Community Day Schools are cut, too.

"And there's not one person who doesn't need the job," Interim Superintendent Walt Hanline said. He said he believed more layoffs were needed, but felt bound by the board's February ruling until learning it might be overturned.

Pink slips were sent out a day late, he learned Monday, and the layoffs would be challenged by the Denair Unified Teachers Association. But Hanline said Tuesday that he researched a little-used provision allowing a district to reopen the layoff option after the state budget is passed if funding is essentially flat. Because Denair gets more money per student than most districts, it will not see an increase this year under the new local control funding formula.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we're going to exercise this window of opportunity and I'm going to make my own recommendation of layoff that will address the realities of our fiscal situation," he said.

Hanline said classroom sizes, some as low as nine children, could not be sustained. "It's beyond belief in today's world to have what they have," he said. He said a more realistic number would be in the 25 to 30 students per class.

He said the additional layoffs will let the district avoid bankruptcy even if negotiations with its teachers do not lead to the 11.5 percent salary cuts the district is seeking.

Teachers association spokeswoman Linda Richardson said after Wednesday's meeting that the union had no choice but to fight the layoffs when the slips were sent out May 15 instead of before May 15.

"Legally, we have to represent the teachers," she said.

Registered letters will arrive by July 22 for the affected teachers, giving them a seven-day window to request a hearing to protest the layoff. The realignment could switch teachers between classes and grades. Final notices are scheduled to arrive in the district time line on Aug. 14, the second day of the district's school year.

Hanline said the board would be given "a clean budget," with all the changes sorted out, on Aug. 8.

Among the parents in the audience Wednesday was one who has filed papers to run for the board. Sandi Dirkse filed a declaration of candidacy for one of two full-term seats Monday, becoming the first one officially in the race. A two-year seat vacated by Julian Wren is also up for election.

Dirkse and her husband own an almond farm and have three children in Denair schools. She said she decided to run for the board "because I believe that the challenges facing this district require new ideas and insight."

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