BUSD to Send Out 50 Lay Off Notices

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 14, 2008

Posted Fri., March 14—The Berkeley Board of Education approved possible lay-off notices for 50 certificated employees Wednesday to prepare for Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposed $4.6 billion state education budget cuts. 

Board president John Selawsky said that notices—which will be sent out by March 15 in keeping with state law—should not be confused with final list of employees who will be laid off. 

“We tend to notify more people than we end up laying off,” he told members of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and staff from the Berkeley Unified School District’s Independent Study program who protested the cuts at the meeting. 

Final layoff notices are expected to be sent out around the first week of May.  

A group of teachers and parents from Berkeley High’s Independent Study program requested that the board reconsider laying off Independent Study coordinator Evelyn Bradley. 

“If we lose her, we would have three administrators in less than two years, which would not be good for the program or the students,” said Kate Karpilow, whose daughter attends Independent Study. 

“All kinds of students—teen moms, gays, lesbians, talented dancers and musicians, students who need sanctuary from violence at Berkeley High—depend on independent study,” said Christina Balch, who teaches in the program. “I urge you to reconsider cutting the coordinator’s position ... when we have six coordinators in nine years it’s a waste of time.” 

Parents also asked the school board to pay more attention to the program itself. 

“I don’t get why it is not seen as a jewel in the crown,” said Karpilow. “For some reason it’s seen as a secondary status program ... It’s not honored. I am baffled by this. Just as the small schools at Berkeley High School offer a menu of options for students and families, the option offered by Independent Study is critical to graduating students and offering them a solid education.” 

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, also urged the board to keep the coordinator position. 

“Elimination of that position would be damaging to the students, teachers and the program,” she said. “This program serves over 170 students, 65 percent of them students of color.” 

The teacher’s union will rally in front of the district headquarters at 2134 Martin Luther Jr. Way today (Friday) at 4 p.m. to protest the proposed lay-offs. 

The board also approved the criteria for determining order of seniority for employees with the same first date of paid probationary service. 

The state Education Code mandates that the district retain certain positions, including those with credentials pertaining to bilingual cross-cultural language and academic development, specially designed academic instruction in English and certain advanced degrees.  

Special education and single-subject credentialed teachers, including those teaching math and science, will be retained in the 2008-2009 school year regardless of their seniority.