School district

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confirms layoff of 200-plus employees

Sixty-five teachers to be laid-off. Entire instrumental music program is cut, as well as half of the school nurses. Ratio of students rises at middle and high school levels.

By Carolanne Sudderth/Ocean Park Gazette

In the face of anticipated budget cuts at the state level, the Santa Monica-Malibu School District at its Feb. 20 meeting confirmed the layoff of more than 200 employees, as well as a moratorium on the interdistrict permits that allow children from outside the district to attend Malibu and Santa Monica schools.

Parents evidenced a sense of betrayal. Ellen Lanett said, “We were told that all younger children could come [to Santa Monica schools.] What do I tell my younger child?”

District employee Sandra Caren told the board she had been promised a permit when she was hired. “How can you go back on your promise? What do I do when I go home to my kid? Tell him that he can’t come?”

Of the layoffs, well more than half are certificated, or credentialed, to teach children. Holding with some parents’ most often expressed fears, the instrumental music program will be eliminated as will all music aides/accompanists, middle and high school library assistants, elementary library coordinators and more than half of the school nurses. Other positions and programs to be reduced or discontinued include English as a Second language, reading specialists, Reading Recovery and Title I.

Sixty-five classroom teachers will be relieved of their duties and the ratio of students to teachers will be increased as follows:

Grade Current/ 2003-04

2002-03

K-2 20:1 20:1

3 20:1 30:1

4 – 5 30:1 30:1

6-8 30:1 35:1

Malibu HS 30:1 37:1

SAMOHI 33:1 37:1

In addition, 56 (approximately 20 percent) of the classified employees will be laid-off including janitors, facilities and groundskeepers, fiscal services managers, computer techs and community liaisons.

Only 12 administrators will be removed, including the principal of Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH). The principal of John Muir, with which SMASH shares a site, will presumably handle duties for both schools.

All personnel will be let go on a seniority basis. The cutting of 206.77 full-time employees will result in a savings of $13, 756,459.

School nurses argued that once eliminated, the positions would not easily be refilled; the demand for nurses is great, and it requires a credential as well as a nursing degree.

Malibu High RN Ellen Rellis said the services nurses provide couldn’t be easily duplicated-the ability to distinguish between a simple stomachache and potential appendicitis, a strangulated colon and a ruptured hernia. “Is this important?” she asked. “It is when it’s your child.”

Principal Patricia Cairns of Juan Cabrillo Elementary School said she has not received notification yet as to who would be cut from the school. She said most likely temporary teachers would be laid-off first.

“It’s difficult to say how it’s going to be,” Cairns said. “We do not have any temporary teachers at this point. The ones we do have are taking the place of our permanent teachers who are on leave.”

An assistant to the principal at Malibu High School said the school will most likely lose about 10 teachers, but school officials there have not yet been notified as to who would be laid-off.

Parents voiced fears that the huge gap between white and Asians and children of color would increase and that the have-nots would be left behind.

“Eliminating the nurses hurts the children without health insurance,” Patricia Hoffman said. “Eliminating the music program hurts children who can’t afford lessons. Eliminating library services hurts children who don’t live in homes filled with books. Poverty sucks and the across-the-board cuts hit poor children most.”

One black woman took umbrage at the fact that of 16 liaisons, the only two held by blacks will be eliminated. “You’re acting like we don’t exist in this community. We do exist, and we’re not going anywhere. We will call in the NAACP. We will call in the media until justice prevails.”

“I remember when Superintendent [John] Deasy came on,” Yolanda de Cordoba said. “He made a commitment to close the achievement gap.”

In other business, the board voted to increase the math requirement for high school graduation from two to three years to better correspond with the requirements of the UC system.