Judge to Denair schools: Don't lay off more teachers

naustin@modbee.comAugust 8, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

— The school district lost its case that it can lay off additional teachers because of basically flat funding. An administrative law judge ruled against the district in a decision issued Thursday and likely to be discussed by trustees at an emergency meeting Monday.

With its March notice to teachers also at risk because of a clerical error, and past salary concessions now voided, the district's financial situation may be worse than ever. Interim Superintendent Walt Hanline said he plans to ask the board to implement the layoffs despite the judge's opinion. Such opinions do not have the force of law but could figure heavily in future legal actions.

A revised budget adopted by trustees Thursday night shows the district must cut $934,367 from its budget soon to stay out of state receivership. But those figures show the March teacher layoffs, not the August cuts, and it is unclear what being unable to implement either might mean to Denair's bottom line.

Denair Unified Teachers Association members, however, said 11 teachers have left this summer, some in advance of a partial layoff and others to take other jobs. Two teachers retired, said DUTA President Barry Cole. By his count, that adds up to nearly $1 million anyway. "That's more than what we need," Cole said after the meeting.

In presentations to the board, however, financial expert Terri Ryland and interim Chief Budget Official Douglas Crancer said the district is nearing the end of the financial rope that the Stanislaus County Office of Education has extended.

"This isn't good. We're not in a good place," Ryland told the board. "You can't meet your obligations for the current year, or the next year, or the next. The county keeps floating you the money and allowing the district to continue in control."

If a balanced budget, with a 4 percent reserve, is not in place in September, the county office has authority to impose a budget on the district, Ryland said. "There's been a collaborative process in place for a year, and I'm not saying they're going to throw the hammer down," she added.

"But they could do it," board President Robert Hodges finished.

Teachers in the audience questioned the board's spending on outside experts and the lack of solid budget numbers. Hanline said the start of school will nail down enrollment figures, and the bumping rights of various teachers will be sorted out, letting the district see what savings come from resignations. With the errors and oversights of past budgets sorted out, he said, "at least we can argue about real numbers."

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter @NanAustin and at www.modbee.com/education.

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