Kyla Calvert, KPBS Education Reporter
Eileen Moreno, Principal of Fay Elementary, 27 out of 29 teachers received pink slips at her school.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Usually the news about deficits and layoffs at San Diego schools is told in terms of numbers or politics. Today we'll tell that story in the terms of the teachers whose jobs are lost, and their students. Kyla Calvert has been speaking with several San Diego unified school district teachers who have been laid off. And some have been through this process before. They're considering their options, and wondering whether to stay in the profession or even whether to stay in San Diego. Hi Kyla.
CALVERT: Hello, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Eileen Moreno, principle of Fay elementary in southeastern San Diego, 27 out of its 29 teachers have been laid off. Welcome to the program.
MORENO: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: We invite our listeners to call in, especially if you are a teacher or know a teacher affected by layoffs in San Diego. Tell us if you're waiting to get recalled or if you're moving on. Kyla, let's start out with some of those very hard numbers San Diego unified is facing.
CALVERT: The deficit is $122†million, sort of -- it's ranged between 120 and 124.
CAVANAUGH: And how many teachers have been laid off?
CALVERT: They sent final layoff notices to I believe it's 1534. They call them certificated employees, so that includes nurses and some counselors as well, but the last majority are teachers.
CAVANAUGH: This year is the culmination of a number of years where things have been really, really tough at San Diego unified. How much has the district lost in funding over the last several years?
CALVERT: I don't remember an exact number, but I believe -- I mean, it's been hundreds of millions of dollars. The last time that I heard a tally was from Bill Kowba, and it was over half a billion dollars, in the -- since about 2008, I believe.
CAVANAUGH: Just a staggering number.
CALVERT: Their total budget is about 1.1†billion. So that's a third of what they're spending annually.
CAVANAUGH: Remind us about the kinds of cuts we've been hearing about.
CALVERT: They've cut back on especially arts and music programs. Last year they rehired a lot of the visual and performing arts staff, sort of the at the very last minute as a result of some energy saves that they had accumulated through using solar. And so they've reduced the number of music offerings, definitely. Maybe Eileen can talk about what has been lost.
CAVANAUGH: Specifically at Fay elementary, what kind of programs have you seen cut back on?
MORENO: Well, each school is given our own budget. We get to make our own decisions about what programs we keep or personnel. At Fay, we have gone down from having a 5-day counselor four years ago, and then four-days, and then three days, and next year, it's going to be a 2-day counselor. Having a nurse on our site for 700 students who have high needs is also very important. But we have had to cut her down also.
CAVANAUGH: How about bus service? We heard a lot about that last year. That's virtually nonexistent now, right?
MORENO: Yes. Bussing does not affect Fay very much. We have a handful of students from special Ed that do receive transportation. Otherwise the entire school is from the immediate community. Class size has been in K-3 has been at 24-1, and the formula for grades 4 and 5 has been 32.13, up until now.
CAVANAUGH: All right then. We do have a caller on the line. Hi, Rebecca.
NEW SPEAKER: I'm a high school senior from university city high school. And I have had many teachers who have been laid off this year. And the program that I have with the layoffs is that the system for who gets laid off is very troubling to me.
CAVANAUGH: In what way?
NEW SPEAKER: Well, my English teacher last year was really one of the best teachers I've had, and she's been laid off. And the way that we fire teachers is simply by seniority. So the teachers that have been with the district the longest won't be fired. But it seems as though often the younger teachers have more energy, more ideas, and more passion for teaching and are the better teachers.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Rebecca. Thank you very much. I'm sorry you lost the teachers that you liked. If I may ask you, Eileen, how is it that almost all of the teachers at Fay elementary have been laid off this go around?
MORENO: Well, my teachers, are the one with the most seniority actually has been teaching for about nine years. I'm sorry, ten years. And then right below here I have a core group of 13 that started on the very same day of the very same year. And so they all started their career together. We used to be Jackson elementary. And then there's three additional teachers that started the very next year. So just there alone, we're looking at 17 teachers. And then the rest of them range anywhere from being first-year teachers to having up to six and seven years. And so it's just one of those things that I happened to have a younger staff, although I don't consider somebody with nine or ten years of seniority -- it kind of sounds outrageous that they're still getting pink slipped.
CAVANAUGH: And doesn't that speak to the layoffs, how the years of layoffs have sort of widowed out the very young teachers?
CALVERT: That's exactly right.
CAVANAUGH: And now we're up to eight or nine years, and they're not senior enough to keep their positions?
CALVERT: Well, and the teachers that I have been speaking with are specifically teachers who have been getting pink slips for the last four or five years. Last year was one of the first years that the pink slips actually turned into real layoff notice, actual lost jobs for hundreds of teachers in the district. So these teachers that I've been speaking with have been officially laid off now two years in a row. So they lost their jobs last year, they had to do things like file for unemployment. Now they're facing exactly that same situation.
CAVANAUGH: Let's play some sound clips from some of the teachers you spoke with. Cameron brown from university city high school.
NEW SPEAKER: How many else's parents are unsure about when they're going to feed their family every summer?
NEW SPEAKER: Even though I've only been lay laid off three times, before that, I was constantly having to deal with being excessed or not knowing where I was going to teach. And so even after nine years of that, a lot of people kind of just I think want to leave the profession.
NEW SPEAKER: It's been a really hard -- and I didn't realize it until the Summertime. I feel like on the serge of a panic attack, and knowing I can't go back to school to finish my masters because I can't afford to go to school. And also if I go back to school, I don't get unemployment for those few weeks.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Who were the other voices?
CALVERT: The next teacher was Cheryline Bondock, and the last teacher was Jessica Brodsky, and she is a first grade teacher at porter elementary school.
CAVANAUGH: What was your overall impression from speaking to the teachers? Did you hear -- I heard a lot of frustration in those sound bytes. Are they on the verge of basically working away?
CALVERT: Well, are the first teacher that we heard from, he was saying that the questions that he was asking, how many other people's parents have to go through this annually? He was saying that to his students because he told his students -- he's the band director at university city high school, and he told his students last week that he's accepted a job in Colorado. And he and his family are moving to Colorado this summer because it's a district, one, where the cost of living is much lower than it is here in San Diego, and where they are not annually pink slipping hundreds of teachers.
CAVANAUGH: Patrick from La Mesa, welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. I was just calling in to say that my wife is a teacher in the school district, she's been teaching in California for 15 years, and -- five in San Diego, and she carries a load for so many people, like this other lady mentioned earlier, because she's a new teacher. Yet it's really the unions that are making things so impossible for fairness to take place across the board
CAVANAUGH: In the sense of who gets fired first?
NEW SPEAKER: Absolutely.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, well, thank you for that. I'm wondering, we have a lot of different feelings about unions and so forth. How do you keep up morale when there are these layoffs hanging over the teachers' heads year after year?
MORENO: Well, it's certainly a challenge, especially given that teachers receive their final layoff notices Friday, and then the following Tuesday, they came back to start the California standardized tests. Now, at our school, it's historically a low-performing school. A lot of challenges. And so keeping up morale has been a No.†1 priority for me right now. But unfortunately at least at Fay, the teachers absolutely adore their students. There's a reason so many of them have stayed for so many years and chosen not to leave that school. And I support them in every way possible. They know that I'm right there to back them up. And they're fighting it, they're doing whatever they can to fight this. They want their jobs back, and specifically they want their jobs back at Fay.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, can you tell us how the students are coping? They're basically losing -- in theory, at least, all their teachers.
MORENO: Yes. The students as they started to find out, the students were upset. In fact, one day, I had two first graders that were brought into my office, and they were in tears. And I thought oh, my gosh, what happened? Who hit who? But in fact they were in tears because they didn't want their teacher to be gone. So students are upset and they're concerned. As they should be. Because what is it going to be like? They show up and there's not one recognizable face out there?
CALVERT: And I think also, I'm interested in hearing from you about how because layoffs are done by seniority, there are very complicated calculations that go into who is available to fill teaching jobs. And it's a very complex process. Can you talk about sort of what it will mean to fill these positions? I mean, you were saying before we came into the studio, you were telling me that those positions will be open for people to apply for on Monday?
MORENO: Yes. Currently the timeline is that next Monday what we call the post and bid will come out. So I'm currently allocated 22 teachers for next year. So I had to post 21 positions. So next Monday, there will be 21 positions at Fay that are open. Teachers will start bidding for those.
CAVANAUGH: And let me explain. You two are really deeply mired in all of this. Let me just explain what I understand that means. And that means teachers who basically are still employed by the San Diego unified school district, but will not be returning to the schools that they're teaching at now, can go and apply for these teaching positions at Fay elementary. It's not like somebody off the street is going to come in and --
MORENO: No, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: It's these teachers who are basically being shuffled around different schools as the overall number of teachers declines.
MORENO: Exactly. And the number of teachers is declining because class size is going up to 31 in K-3, and then it's going up to 34.6 in K-five at the elementary level. So yes, shuffling around is a very good way to describe that. Of
CAVANAUGH: Let me take a phone call. Adriana is second calling from San Diego. Welcome to the program.
NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon. Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: You're welcome.
NEW SPEAKER: Basically I wanted to just say that I agree with everything that has been said. And I also want to highlight the initiative of particularly high school students tomorrow at 2:45 PM. There is a call by the center for social justice students to come out and protest the 32 pink slips that have been issued to 32 of the students at Lincoln high school. Just one high school where over 32 pink slips. I think it's a crisis for students, as it has been said before, the increase of class numbers, the issue of having access to the classes that the students need in order for them to graduate. So Lincoln high school is on the map in San Diego. A call to protest at 2:45 at Lincoln high school. Thank you so much for the space.
CAVANAUGH: You're very welcome. And thank you for the call. Ron in San Diego, hello, welcome to the program.
NEW SPEAKER: Thanks. I've been a teacher for 30 years. I've been on the board of San Diego educators association, I've been an administrator, have all sorts of education experience. And from my perspective, the union is doing a horrible job for its members. First they're asking for 12% pay raise when they know the district can't afford it. Second, I'm now working in Chula Vista. I pay over $10,000 a year for my medical benefits. And you know what? San Diego teachers paid little to nothing for their medical benefits for their families. The union has to give. There is no money. And the result is all these teachers are being laid off.
CAVANAUGH: Ron, thank you, I'm out of time. We've got your time. Thank you very much. Let me ask you something, teachers union with that pay hike, that was negotiated with the San Diego unified school district a couple years ago for other concessions that the union made. But if they were to go back to the negotiating table, Kyla, and they negotiated away that pay increase, does that mean the teachers at Fay would be able to go back to their old jobs?
CALVERT: I think that that probably is an unknown. I think it depends on how far the post and bid process goes.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Would it allow the district to rehire a lot of teachers? Is that what the district is say something
CALVERT: The district has put out various proposals for things like continuing right now the Teachers' Union -- well, all the unions have agreed to five furlough days. So that's scheduled to go away next year. So they've also -- so the district has said we could continue those five furlough days, and that would mean this many millions of dollars, and we could make changes to your health benefits package, that would mean this many millions of dollars. All of the things that the district has put forward, if you tally all of them up, it still doesn't reach the amount of money they are targeted to cut with all the layoffs. So I don't think that we're going to reach a point where all the teachers are back in the classroom.
CAVANAUGH: Kyla's feature report can be heard tomorrow morning on KPBS morning edition, and on our website, website.org.