County office of education approves layoffs
The regular meeting of the Plumas County Office of Education is usually pro forma - over and done in 15 minutes. Not so March 9, when Superintendent Glenn Harris and Assistant Superintendent Bruce Williams, who is responsible for personnel matters, presented a resolution of intent to dismiss 5.83 full-time equivalent faculty positions.
The move has the potential to impact nine individual teachers in the career technical education and regional occupational programs.
An indication that something was amiss came before the meeting began, when Jonathan Kusel, Indian Valley's representative on the board, questioned Betty Moura, Harris' administrative assistant, about the placement of the pertinent resolution under information items rather than action items.
Moura told him Harris had instructed her to place the items there and referred him to Harris.
As the COE meeting moved through the agenda, Director of Business Yvonne Bales presented the county office of education's second interim budget to the board. Bales told the board funding for ROP and CTE classes had been severely reduced.
She said the expense of the County Community School and alternative education schools run by the county office were the primary cause of deficit spending in the current school year. According to Bales, the state funds about 80 percent of the allocated funds for those programs.
Paul Mrowczynski followed Bales with an update on the 2010-2011 Tech Prep Regional Distribution Points Project grant. The project will facilitate a regional, coordinated support system for CTE.
After a brief presentation by Mrowczynski, the meeting moved on to the bones of contention, the resolutions concerning layoffs.
By way of introduction Harris said, "On the next item on the agenda, resolution on the intent to dismiss certificated employees, that action has been taken by county superintendent.
"There are some questions that I think it would be helpful for the board to understand how this works. There are some things that might seem contrary in that."
Harris then called upon Williams, who informed trustees of the recommendation for a reduction of 5.83 FTE, or nine certificated ROP/CTE staff members. Williams said Harris had accepted the recommendation.
In follow-up telephone conversations the week of March 16, Williams confirmed layoff notices went out in the mail prior to the March 15 deadline for PCOE and PUSD.
On the county side, three Chester High School teachers received notices impacting 12 sections in construction, desktop publishing and ASB leadership.
Two of the notices were outright layoffs and one was for a reduction from full time to part time.
At Greenville High School two faculty members received notices of reduction from full time to part time. The reduction will affect nine sections of culinary arts, natural resources and office occupations.
Portola High School will lose 14 sections in computer applications and industrial technology; three teachers will become part time and one will be laid off.
Quincy High School was the least impacted: One teacher will become part time and four sections of computer applications will be lost.
From the district, two teachers received notices: one K6 teacher at C. Roy Carmichael in Portola and one office management teacher at QHS. Feather River College funded that particular section.
A second notice is due to the same faculty members by May 15, to confirm the notice already received.
Williams anticipated that when funding became clearer, the county office would not need to lay off all of the teachers. The number was to allow flexibility in planning which sections would be eliminated.
Asked about previously announced hiring, Williams said the district was hiring to replace up to 17 retiring teachers from those laid off back as far back as 2006 - 2007.
He said the PCOE faculty laid off would not be eligible for re-hire to fill those positions because specialized credentials did not make them eligible for rehire.
At the March 9 meeting, in response to Harris' request to explain the fiscal considerations of the resolutions to dismiss and to not re-elect, Bales returned to the podium to explain to the trustees that base funding for ROP and career tech classes has been adjusted to 2007 - 2008 average daily attendance levels, or 267 ADA.
She explained the ADA determined PCOE's percentage of the state funds available for ROP/CTE classes.
Bales said as the pool of funds from the lottery and other allocations shrinks, the county's static percentage, approximately 2 percent, also shrinks, through 2012-2013, regardless of current ADA.
At that point, Kusel asked for clarification from board president Brad Baker as to why action had already been taken without prior discussion by the board.
Kusel said, "I was always under the understanding that the board is making a decision about layoffs in this district - county and district side. I understand that there may be a disagreement in our understanding of that."
Harris responded, "I don't know if there's a disagreement in your understanding of it; I can tell you quite simply the county board is an advisory board. They do not need to take actions on the resolutions of this nature; that is under the role of the county superintendent of schools. Under the school district, the school board has to take all actions regarding personnel."
Kusel persisted in asking for clarification, saying that historically it was something the board had always done. "It's interesting that these are listed as board resolutions and yet they are under information items."
He continued, "The scale of these layoffs has profound policy implications in terms of what we're doing at particular school sites. Because they have those policy implications, there needs to be discussion about this at a deeper level.
"The scale and the number of sections we're talking about can prove to be devastating at some of the sites. And, it's not just one site, it is multiple sites.
"I think they are very, very, very significant policy issues embedded in this."
Baker responded, "Very good, I've got a little different remembrance than you do. I don't recall us ever doing board resolutions on the county side. So that's part of my confusion here as well. But I don't ever recall us actually taking action on personnel items on the county side. So ... there it is."
Harris said, "And if you did, as a county board, I would say then, as a county board, you may have been misled."
At which point Baker audibly chuckled.
"That's all I can tell you," Harris concluded.
Kusel: "My point still stands though in terms of the significance and scale. If I'm wrong, I will accept that. I still think embedded in them ... when we at school sites rely on those ROP sections to allow those other schedules to work and they're not there, we are making decisions that go beyond these things and they have implications on the PUSD side."
Harris: "Yes, they do."
Kusel continued on the significance of ROP in school scheduling, concluding with a plea for a deeper discussion on the matter.
Baker and Harris agreed with Kusel's assessment, and Kusel pressed on for deeper discussion of the embedded issues and impacts the resolution would have on individual school sites.
Baker again concurred, at the same time citing Williams' earlier presentation, "In order to meet the budgetary requirements, we have to issue more notices than we may intend."
Williams added, "You may always go back from the point you set tonight (number of layoff notices), but you can never do more than you do tonight."
Kusel, fighting a rearguard action, indicated he understood the strategy of sending out more notices than might be required. He asked the board, "Hear my plea in light of the larger picture."
Williams mentioned the final information item, Resolution 0910-06, in the Matter of the Decision Not to Re-elect Probationary Certificated Employee."
The board moved on, without further comment, to the superintendent's report on distance learning, school funding and a budget update.