Nearly 50 Berkeley school district teachers recieve pink slips

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Last week, 48 teachers in the Berkeley Unified School District received pink slips, signifying that another wave of staff layoffs could be on its way in the upcoming months.

In light of the cuts to public education in Gov. Jerry Brown’s preliminary budget released in January for the upcoming fiscal year, the school district was required to notify teachers of possible layoffs by mid-March. However, the number of teachers being laid off could change with the release of Brown’s revised budget in May and the results of a tax initiative that will be on the state ballot in November.

According to Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, 94 temporary teachers were also given release letters for June 15, along with the 48 permanent teachers who were given pink slips. Twenty-one of the 48 teachers are from Berkeley High School, according to Campbell.

Whereas Campbell said temporary teachers receive release letters every year and will most likely be rehired, the nearly 50 permanent teachers who received pink slips may or may not keep their positions.

“This is more notices than we expected,” Campbell said. “We were surprised by how many (people) got notices.”

Campbell said 72 teachers got pink slips in March 2009.

The district considered the possible areas they want to reduce for next year — which centered around Biology, Chemistry and Spanish classes — and the teachers were targeted accordingly, she said.

“What we have to do is put all the pieces in place for what-ifs, in the event that we need to make a cut in this area,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “If (cuts) are not needed, then it’s taken out of the mix.”

Coplan said the district is required to notify staff that may be affected in March, but the hope is to cut fewer staff members than the number notified.

Campbell also said the declining enrollment of students in the school district, which has resulted in less money for the district from the state, has contributed to this recurrence of pink slips.

“(The high school was) definitely hit the hardest,” Campbell said. “They’re proposing to cut the secondary programs, and because Berkeley High School has 3,200 students, they’re going to have a larger number there.”

“This certainly was not a decision the board made lightly,” said Josh Daniels, a director of the district’s Board of Education.

The board voted unanimously at its March 7 meeting to hand out the pink slips.

“The final decisions around how many employees or teachers (laid off), if any, would not be made … until we have a much better picture of the budget situation that has been imposed on us by the state,” Daniels said.

Weiru Fang covers Berkeley communities.