Turlock Unified to let go 17 single-year teachers, gets better budget news

naustin@modbee.comMarch 4, 2014 

    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

— Turlock Unified School District trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to notify 17 teachers hired for one-year assignments that their jobs will end in May. There were no layoffs of permanent teachers, however, because of enrollment moving slightly up this year and better budget news.

“This is not a layoff and none of these (17) were probationary teachers,” Heidi Lawler, assistant superintendent of human resources, told the board. Some were filling in for teachers on maternity leave or working for the year as instructional coaches, and others had positions paid through special funding not certain for next year, Lawler said.

Trustee Frank Lima said an effort should be made to retain excellent temporary teachers whenever possible.

They will be missed, said Christine Rowell, vice president of the Turlock Teachers Association. Rowell said she will be looking at hiring for next fall to see how many highly qualified teachers were lost unnecessarily if the same positions reopen.

In addition to the teacher positions voted on Tuesday, several probationary teachers recently were let go, Rowell said. She told the board that the way teachers were told they would not have a job next year was “unconscionable,” with some teachers pulled from class, given the news and sent back in to teach.

The board also got a budget update, hearing that enrollment rose by 60 students this year, and that the district has a higher percentage of poor and English-learning students. Both add to future revenues.

The district expects to receive roughly 4 percent more money next year, said Lori Decker, assistant superintendent of financial services, giving a midyear budget update.

Though the general fund shows more spending than income this year, Decker told the board the deficit was caused by one-time investments in technology and Common Core teaching materials. The district has a more than $1 million surplus in ongoing spending, she said.

In budgeting that money, far more will now come in a lump sum, not in the “little boxes” that tied budget writers’ hands before, said Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. Each district will be tasked with setting goals and meeting them, but details still are being worked out.

“This is nothing like we’ve ever experienced in education,” Da Marto said. “For the first time, we have real local control.”

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

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