Schools - March 17, 2010

Menlo Park board OKs teacher layoffs

• Parcel tax approval could save jobs.

by Andrea Gemmet

Teachers in the Menlo Park City School District could see preliminary layoff notices in their inboxes this week. At the March 10 meeting, the school board voted to end nearly 12 full-time equivalent positions in the K-8 district as a cost-cutting measure.

The layoffs affect two librarians, an assistant principal, two Spanish teachers, a counselor, an instructional technology coordinator and a couple of physical education teachers. Several other positions will have their hours reduced.

While only two classroom teaching jobs were on the chopping block, the reality is that young classroom teachers with the least seniority will be the ones who are laid off.

All but one of the people losing their positions have teaching credentials, and because they have greater seniority, they will be offered classroom jobs, while teachers with the least seniority will be getting pink slips, said Superintendent Ken Ranella at the March 10 board meeting.

"It's a reduction of services, not positions," he said. "It's not the assistant principal that goes away, it's another classroom teacher."

Nearly eight temporary teaching positions will also be terminated, Mr. Ranella said. The number of layoffs for a district of Menlo Park's size is significant, he said. Additional layoffs of staff in non-teaching positions will be done in the coming weeks, he said.

The passage of Measure C, a $178 annual parcel tax on the May 4 ballot, could save many, if not all, of the jobs that were cut, Mr. Ranella said.

Board member Laura Rich addressed the teachers in the audience, saying that district officials are doing everything they can to prevent the layoffs from becoming permanent on May 15.

"We hate doing this to even one person," Ms. Rich said. "This is just awful. This is the worst. I hope each (teacher) understands how much we value them."

The district is looking to make at least $1.2 million in cuts, in the event that the parcel tax does not pass. Swelling enrollment numbers, flat property tax revenues, and an anticipated $1.4 million cut in state funding are projected to leave the district with a $2 million budget shortfall for the 2010-11 school year, district officials said.

If the parcel tax passes, the district will still need to make $300,000 in budget cuts for the coming school year, and about that much in cuts for the 2011-12 school year, Mr. Ranella said. Class sizes are almost certain to be affected.


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