Fifteen pink slips for Lassen County teachers
The Westwood Unified School District issued four layoff notices March 15 to one administrator and three teachers.
Richmond School and the Lassen County Office of Education will not be laying employees off while Lassen High School and Johnstonville face cuts.
Richmond School Superintendent Cindy Nellums said rather than having to give teachers notice, Richmond is looking to hire teachers.
A staff member is leaving the area after 10 years and a temporary classroom was added this year to handle increased enrollment in the second and third grades. The classroom will be come permanent next year so Richmond will hire for that position.
“I personally hand-deliver six notices on Friday last week,” said SSD Superintendent David Lutkemeier.
The superintendent said it’s difficult making staffing decisions so far in advance, especially when the district state hasn’t completed its budget for the school yet.
Lutkemeier said, for example, if the district discovered the number of third grade students would decrease in a hypothetical scenario, the district might decide to let one of two teachers go.
Otherwise, the district goes to the seniority list — according to the state’s education code and the contracts that have been signed with the teachers.
“In the last three years, everybody who’s been laid off has been brought back,” Lutkemeier said.
He added sometimes teachers have decided to move out of the area or have accepted another job and therefore are not interested in returning to the district, and he said he doesn’t count those individuals.
“Over the past three years, everyone who’s wanted to come back has been able to,” Lutkemeier said. “Of course there’s no guarantee that will continue as we move forward.”
He said laying off even one teacher is “not good,” but the elementary school population in Northern California is gradually declining.
SSD’s enrollment has been dropping by 10 or 15 students a year for the past few years, a development Lutkemeier characterized as “slow attrition.”
Nellums said Richmond's average daily attendance has held and increased over the last several years and it is expected to be at or near the same enrollment next year.
Richmond also continues to remain solvent.
“Although we have an old bond for a building from 1965 and a bond payment for the gym constructed in 1997, we basically have little debt,” Nellums said.
Due to school budgeting and enrollment, Johnstonville School gave notice to one full-time teacher and two part-time Title I teachers.
Johnstonville Superintendent Urbanac said oftentimes, but stressed not all the time, teachers are reinstated when the budget and enrollment numbers are figured out.
Three of Lassen Union High School District teachers were given notification.
LHS Superintendent Dan Lewis said the reason three of LHS’s teachers were given notice is the teachers have not finished their full credential program, but are nearing completion.
The teachers are working on intern permits issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Janesville School Superintendent Gary McIntire said none of the district’s teachers received a pink slip, but there may be part-time employees who will not be re-hired next year.
In Westwood, Henry Bietz, superintendent of Westwood School District and principal at Westwood High and Fletcher Walker Elementary, said the second interim financial report presented to the board for approval was based on student enrollment numbers from the previous year. While the district was able to remain financially sound this year the outlook was not good for next year.
The loss of more than 50 students this school year will impact next year’s budget. The district receives state funds for each elementary student attending.
Bietz said he had decided not to ask the board to make more extensive staff cuts by combining grades at the elementary school even though many classes had only 14-20 students.
A large chunk of the budget covers the district’s commitment to retirees. In the past, money from the Federal Forest Reserve Fund has been used to help cover these costs but this funding will probably be discontinued after this year, said Bietz. However age limits on retiree health benefits should reduce the financial load on the district beginning next year.
At press time information regarding Janesville, Shaffer and Ft. Sage Unified School District was not available.
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