Tag Archives: El Dorado

Skips, bumps and seniority: how layoffs work

My commenters from El Dorado Elementary have angrily alleged that the district chose to focus the brunt of layoffs on hard-to-staff schools, pointing to a legal precedent in the case of Bledsoe v Biggs Unified School District (2008) 170 Cal. App. 4th 127 (skip to page 8 for the discussion of the case).

The teachers say this precedent gives our district the right to skip certain teachers without respect to seniority, and say that the fact that 60 percent of the staff  at El Dorado (or 67 percent of the teachers, depending on what you use as the base of your percentages) received pink slips shows that the district has abandoned the ideals of “Beyond the Talk.”

Strong words. I haven’t appreciated some of the accusations that have been leveled at me (for example, that I was spreading “misinformation” because I used the 60 percent figure), but whatever. They’re angry, they’re facing the loss of their jobs, and they’re mourning the likely breakup of a dedicated and idealistic staff team– so I guess I can take it. I did, however, ask the district’s legal counsel for an opinion on how Bledsoe v. Biggs applies to our current situation. Are the El Dorado elementary teachers correct that we have ignored a legal precedent that would save teachers currently working at hard-to-staff schools?
In a word, according to our general counsel, no. Here’s why:

  • In the Bledsoe v Biggs case, the district “skipped” teachers at its community day school (a school for students expelled from other sites). A more senior teacher asserted the right to bump. Notably, the court found that the senior teacher was both credentialed and competent to hold the position. However, the district successfully avoided the bump by showing that the more junior, skipped teacher possessed unique training and experience for teaching in that environment that the more senior teacher did not possess.  At our hard-to-staff schools, we do not currently require that teachers have special training or credentials to take a position. They do receive additional professional development and stipends after they begin teaching at a hard-to-staff school, but we do not require that professional development as a condition for beginning employment at the school.
  • We have instituted “skips” for particular kinds of “hard-to-fill” subjects or credential areas:  BCLAD (bilingual), special education, and single-subject math or science credentials, for example. But even within those skipped areas, more senior teachers have bumping rights. As an illustration, last week I was contacted by a special education teacher who could not understand why he received a pink slip. After the Human Resources department investigated, we were told that because there are administrators who received pink slips that also hold a special education credential, those employees could conceivably have the right to “bump” into special education classroom jobs to avoid a layoff. Hence, a handful of special education teachers still received pink slips despite the skip (the teacher who contacted me was senior enough that after the investigation, HR rescinded his layoff even though they concluded he was properly noticed in the first place). The bottom line: a job at one of our hard-to-staff schools is not the same–in the eyes of the law–as a job in a hard-to-fill area, in terms of the specific training and credential required. In addition, more senior teachers who hold the same credential as the “skipped” employee are still able to “bump” into his or her position in a layoff. Since teachers at hard-to-staff schools hold the same credential as their colleagues at other schools, they would not be protected from being skipped in a layoff because they could still be bumped by more senior teachers who received layoff notices.
  • As noted above, teachers are only permitted to bump into position that they are credentialed and competent to fill, and the district does have broad authority to decide what “competency” is for its teachers. Recently, for example, we decreed that all teachers employed by the district must have the CLAD credential (now required by the state for any teacher who works with English Language Learners). As a result, teachers who earned a credential before the CLAD was required (and did not go back and get the CLAD certification later) are no longer “competent” to teach in our district. However, competency criteria must apply equally to all staff. A competency requirement that would protect staff at hard-to-staff schools (such as requiring experience teaching in a hard-to-staff school) would result in finding the majority of the District’s staff to be not competent. Such a requirement would probably not survive a legal challenge.

The fact that I think the counsel’s analysis is sound does not mean I like it, or that I think it’s fair that 67% of El Dorado’s teachers received pink slips.  I think we should work on a side agreement with UESF that would enable us to go as a team to the legislature and request a legislative solution that saves teachers who choose to work at hard-to-staff schools.   I am also following the national conversation on alternative ways of conducting layoffs, and I hope there is a way that our labor unions will feel they can eventually participate in such a conversation (probably now is not the best time, since we are in the midst of a very difficult negotiation). Seniority is a major pillar of the labor movement, and it’s not the cause of all the ills in our schools –it’s not helpful to to blame our labor contracts for disproportionate layoffs at hard-to-staff schools,  just as it isn’t helpful to blame the district for the sad situation we’re in.

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Recap: A sad but resolute board passes budget action plan

In the end, it was unanimous, but heading into tonight’s meeting I felt real anxiety about how the debate and final vote on the Superintendent’s Budget Deficit Action Plan would play out. For one thing, members of United Educators of San Francisco, San Francisco Organizing Project (SFOP) and various parent groups spent the past week peppering Board members with increasingly desperate pleas to slow down the plan and address budget alternatives in detail. For another, at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting on the plan, several Board members seemed inclined to vote against the plan outright, while others appeared undecided.  Muddying the waters was an alternate budget proposal from SFOP’s Children’s Allocation Team (CAT), which they said would cut $113 million over two years through across-the-board cuts to centralized budget functions, sparing class sizes and other labor concessions.

I was concerned enough to go to the Superintendent late last week and ask him whether he would consider putting off a vote on the plan for two weeks. I wasn’t worried so much about the need for the Board to sign off on a prospective budget framework, and I also agreed it was important for us to approve such a framework sooner rather than later, in order to help school sites start planning for next year and offer our employees more clarity about whether they will have a job next year. But the level of uncertainty I saw in Board members and among members of the public made me worry that perhaps we were moving too fast, and that we hadn’t truly considered all the alternatives.

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El Dorado Bakers Book: great gift for a great cause

Crossposting from The SF KFiles:

The Kindergartners of Room 9 and their First Grade Buddies in Room 104 would like to share the delicious results of their Breaking Bread unit with you. Their bound and illustrated cookbook will be available 5 December for $4.00 a copy (+ $2 shipping and handling if applicable). All proceeds will support their weekly cooking projects.
The El Dorado’s Bakers’ Book can be purchased at El Dorado in person, by phone (415.331.1537) or by mail (Jennifer Moless/Tali Horowitz, El Dorado ES 70 Delta St. San Francisco CA 94134). Orders are also accepted by email to jennifer.moless “at” gmail.com. We can accept cash or checks made out to Jennifer Moless or Tali Horowitz.
Thank you for supporting healthy, hands-on learning in our classrooms!
El Dorado is a great school with a great staff, and great students. They deserve all the support they can get!