Modesto City Schools votes to send layoff notices, end elementary library course

naustin@modbee.comMarch 10, 2014 

Modesto City Schools will send out pink slips to eliminate the equivalent of 29 full-time teaching and counseling positions, which could create a domino effect of shifting jobs but likely will result in few actual layoffs.

“(The cuts) do impact people, no question, but these are positions,” said Craig Rydquist, head of Modesto City Schools human resources. Because of attrition, all but a handful of people are expected to still have district jobs, he said.

The vote was unanimous Monday to send layoff notices for 11.5 teacher-librarian jobs, 12.5 instructional coach positions and 2.5 bilingual language specialist posts in elementary schools. High schools will trim 2.1 counseling jobs for English learners and a half-time teacher in the nurse precertification program.

State law requires that teachers be notified by March 15 of any layoff possibility for the following year. Final cuts, if needed, would come in June.

The cuts effectively will end Modesto’s longstanding library course, opening a time slot for computer instruction. Audience members protested the cuts, with librarians saying they have the skills to provide lessons on online research and have not been trained in common core curriculum to return to classrooms.

“I find it a sad day when Modesto City Schools decides to end one of Mr. (James) Enochs’ greatest legacies,” said Modesto Teachers Association President Doug Burton. Burton said the longtime superintendent developed the library program as a model for the state.

“Everybody wanted to be us. Everybody. We were the heroes of the library community,” said veteran library teacher Cynthia Bender. She urged the board to bring any new technology program under the library umbrella.

“We are the people who are ready. We have the skills to give any kind of database instruction,” she said.

Most districts have support staff manning their elementary libraries. Modesto does as well on days when the library teachers are at other schools.

The libraries will remain open, stressed board President Cindy Marks.

“The key issue for me, which is very persuasive, is time. There’s only so much time during the school day,” said board Vice President Amy Neumann. Children need to be taught the computer skills they will need for online testing going forward, she said.

The board vote Monday also gives weight to the qualifications of teachers who have equal seniority. The district will give preference in cases of a seniority tie to teachers with extra training for English learners; those who are bilingual; and those who hold extra credentials in math, English, science and special education.

The board got a midyear budget update from Chief Business Official Julie Chapin. A multiyear projection shows the district expects to spend $26 million from reserves this year. Chapin called that a planned decrease to return salaries to prerecession highs. The district still will end the year with a comfortable $48 million in the bank, which grows with projected surpluses for the next two years.

Equally good news is same-year delivery pledged for all state funding, the first time since 2000-01 that cash has not lagged behind the calendar, Chapin said.

Money set aside within that reserve includes $5.1 million to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Modesto does not pay a significant portion of employee health costs now.

It also shows $1.8 million saved over three years to replace artificial turf and $500,000 for Digital Davis, a program in which students will have a computer to use.

Extra money coming for the next years is waiting on community input before it is budgeted. Still set aside are $32 million over the next two school years to implement community priorities and $42 million in extra funding the district will receive to help its poor students, English learners and foster children.

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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