Mike McMahon AUSD
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Comments Received from Alameda Regarding Notices Sent to Teachers

On March 14th, I sent an EMail to the Alameda community attempting to explain the Board action to send layoff notices to all of the Alameda teachers.

Posted in order of date received

Parent 3/16

In regards to what other districts are doing, it seems that they are all doing something different. I know in the district I work in, San Lorenzo, they tried early to get as much input as possible from all different stakeholders. Regular e-mails and postings at all school sites have kept people appraised of the situation as soon as the governor started talking about midyear cuts. The bargaining team has been working with the district officials to have input on what steps are being taken. Many of the items are not contractual, but they do have input from stakeholders. The seniority list was compiled several weeks before the Board resolution needed to be finalized.Everyone realizes that something has to be cut, but the more input from as many stakeholders as possible ensures that everyone is informed, aware and not afraid or angry. At that point the discussion can move forward about where the cuts will be made. Now, in Alameda, a lot of energy is and will go into diffusing or dealing with people's anger and frustration.

How can we as stakeholders, as parents, children, community members and teachers have input and buy in when we are not asked to be involved in the process that affects us at a very important level? I worry about the impact on our students. How can teachers be effective in their classes when they feel that they are being minimalized by their employers? That is ultimately the responsibility of the Board. Since the contract dispute there has been a lot of animosity between teachers and the Board. Now would have been an optimal time to show the teachers, and staff that they are valued, by including them in the process. And, fortunately, it is not too late to start now by including all stakeholders in the process of determining where cuts will be made.

Teacher 3/16

Although I have no head for the financial side of things, I do on some level understand the districts choice to do blanket lay offs. I guess what disappoints me is that there was no HR attempt to prepare staff or respond to staff. In fact, your email is the closest thing to the district responding in a "human" way to what is very upsetting to many people. It makes me very sad to hear what some of the good educators are saying and feeling. I do believe that no matter what is done, there are those who will respond inappropriately and or predictably but I also think that if the district were to handle itself in a more professional manner, there are also many we could begin to expect support from in a predictable way.

Teacher 3/15

Just a short note to let you know how disappointed I am in your recent vote to send RIF notices to all teachers. The Alameda Education Association supported (Editor Note: AEA did not support my candidacy in 2002)your election to the school board because of your history of dedication to the students, staff and community of Alameda. Your recent vote makes me question this.

Parent 3/15

I appreciate your admission that the identification of program reductions should have been undertaken sooner, the fact remains that the district and Board's actions were disappointing. Even if the Board was unsure of which kinds of services/programs to reduce or eliminate, I find it hard to believe that the only solution was to notify 100% of our teachers. My son's kindergarten teacher has been in the district over 25 years! Is there even the possibility that kindergarten will be eliminated? I understand the desire to not single out people or groups of people but look at the cost. The teachers ARE our school district, yet these talented, dedicated and often unappreciated people are the very ones that the Board's action injured the most.

I totally agree that we as a community must insure the dialogue and decisions surrounding program reductions are conducted in an efficient and effective matter. To this we must add open and forthright. I must admit that I have a very real concern that there was an ulterior motive at play in this decision; I don’t believe I am alone in this concern either. I would very much like to be involved in any part of the process surrounding program reductions, please let me know if there are specific ways to do so.

Finally, I would say that the Board and the district need to make some overtures to the teachers with respect to this decision. I realize the need to maintain flexibility but there is plenty of room to make amends and give the teachers the respect they so greatly deserve.

One of the primary reasons I voted for you was my belief that you would be a supporter of educational issues from a parent’s perspective and not just another bureaucrat. I don’t think that was achieved on this issue. I would like to look at this issue as a bump in the road; however I hope more thought will go into future decisions.

Parent 3/14

While the District has not been blameless, the union has not exactly been overly forthcoming either. The 2/25 memo from the Superintendent, and the heads of ACSA, CSEA and Local 1 (AEA declined to sign it) to every single District employee stated the upcoming process.

Frankly, I think that the District was going to take it on the chin, no matter how they handled it. As I've said to others, the real villain in this story is the State. I feel like sending all our legislators a violin so that they can fiddle while our schools burn.

What REALLY worries me is the outcry that will take place with the $1.7 million in cuts that will happen with very little public input. Two years ago Superintendent's Educational Advisory Committee (SEAC) met over a few months and included a town hall type meeting which allowed for community input. The plan this time around is for SEAC to meet three times during one week, finishing on Friday evening, present to the Board (as an info item) the following Tuesday, and then have the Board take action two weeks later. It is one thing to send preliminary notices to all teachers (and administrators) but another to actually make the cuts and have to send out real pink slips by May 15th.

Teacher 3/14

Now how do we get involved in such a process? Unfortunately, it looks like we're once again trying to get things done "tomorrow" when a committee should have been working on this months ago. This process of how our district accomplishes such important goals is continuing source of frustration for me. The strategic plan took months. And while that was important, this is foremost in the minds of all concerned and we're once again rushing to do something which impacts so many.

Teacher 3/14

There is one piece of serious confusion that adds to the consternation: regarding the hearing necessary -- does a tenured teacher lose tenure if a hearing is not requested? Does a teacher lose a position if a hearing is not requested? We are very much in the dark, and a 600 hundred teacher request will surely cause you impossible time and expenses.

Parent 3/14

I fully appreciate the dilemma all public school districts are facing - times are very tough and you ultimately have no control over what is decided in Sacramento. What I want to communicate to you is this: the action the board took was probably prudent and necessary; however, much anxiety and resentment has now been generated among all of our mostly wonderful teachers because there was no communication around this action to help all AUSD staff put your recent action in perspective. As you know, most of us do not attend board meetings and that includes teachers. I cannot tell you how completely demoralized the teachers I know are - and I cannot fully express how appalled I am that the "process" of notifying all staff via pink slips could not have been more thoughtful, respectful and civilized. Why couldn't there have been some communication/outreach to soften the blow?

I do not envy you the very tough decisions that you will ultimately have to make in the coming weeks and months - I trust you and fully support you. What I sincerely hope is that the action the board took this past week does not start another series of ugly, destructive moves on the part of AUSD administration and AEA. I am stating now that the way our teachers were notified this week was just as unacceptable. I implore you to find a more effective, respectful way to communicate to all of our valuable staff as you begin to make the inevitable, difficult budget cuts.

Teacher 3/14

This still doesn't make sense because the teachers of this district feel disrespected and I'm sure agree with the editorial about this district, written in the SF Chronicle. The issue isn't about programs; the issue is that you need teachers next year- you didn't need to pink slip an entire district. The members of the board who voted for this have left an entire district feeling demoralized.

Parent 3/14

As a former teacher, I understand how the ed code can sometimes mandate action that goes against common sense. I also anticipate that your first year on the board will be difficult as well as enlightening. That said, I am still quite disappointed in the decision to "pink slip" every teacher in the district. It is demoralizing for our teaching professionals and has caused many parents who don't understand any of this,reason to panic.

Is it possible that the Alameda Unified School District will not exist in the Fall do to budget cuts? That is what laying off every teacher in the district suggests. I don't believe that many of these teachers will lose their jobs. In the end, I hope that our state and district will not give up the ground we have made in class size reduction. To do so would be an unforgiveable mistake. But even the worst case scenario will not require the district to let every teacher go at the end of this year. I know I'm not alone when I say I fear an ulterior motive may have played a role in the decision to "pink slip" en masse.

I am glad to read that there will be parent input when deciding specific program reductions. How exactly does one become involved in this process?

Teacher 3/14

I understand fully how complex and difficult this has been and will be. Not a great way to begin your time with the school board. My one complaint, is this-the notices were given out to us by our principals. In looking back on it, I wonder if it might have been a better decision to have the Superintendent or the Chief Perosnnel Officer or maybe even board members come to each school, explain the circumstances, and then give out the envelopes. With teachers, heck with lots of folks, it is a matter of respect. Maybe come may 15th, when those most fragile (our youngest, newest teachers) get their second letter, maybe someone from the district leadership or the board can say thanks to those folks by offering a handshake, a thanks, along with the bad news.

Staff 3/14

This has been a challenging two days and unfortunately many feel this represents the fact that our BOE and Sup do not care about the teachers.

Parent 3/14

What concerns me is the process. Was the sending everyone a pink slip in the best interest of budget cut flexibility, or was to create equality of pain? Why didn't any other district choose this strategy? Nothing the Board would have done would have made the Board popular at this point. But wouldn't it have been nice to work all together with the unions and the seac group to develop the strategy and the list of what might need to be cut? Will the group need to determine if class size reduction needs to be gone?

Will there be community input to the suggested cutbacks?

Parent 3/14

However, I still don't understand why we are the only district to pink slip all of its teachers. Most of us think it's because the district didn't do its homework!!

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial 3/14

California'S Budget crisis is grim enough without school districts unnecessarily sending out layoff notices to teachers who are unlikely to lose their jobs.

The Alameda school district tops the list for scare tactics by handing out layoff notices to 100 percent of its teachers and many administrators. The West Contra Costa district, which includes Richmond, has sent out notices to nearly half of its 2000 teachers. Berkeley sent out notices to one-third of its teachers.

A West Contra Costa official told us the district wants to leave itself "a cushion" to prepare itself for a "worst case scenario." Alameda officials say they want to give themselves "flexibility" in handling a chaotic budget situation foisted on them by the state.

But however bad the state's budget situation, these districts know full well they will not have to lay off 50 percent, let alone 100 percent, of their teachers.

Under state law, school districts must send a preliminary notice to teachers by March 15 if they want to lay any of them off during the next school year. Yet Gov. Gray Davis and our state legislators have moved slowly in attacking what they knew long ago was a huge budget crisis.

At the same time, school districts must be held accountable for further eroding the morale of teachers, who get blamed by Sacramento and Washington for almost every shortcoming of our educational system. "Teachers are in utter shock," says Mary Butler, a first grade teacher at Donald Lum Elementary School in Alameda. "I've never seen morale this low."

Officials say they've tried to reassure teachers that the layoff notices are just preliminary, and they're hoping to avoid any layoffs. But imagine the impact of receiving an official letter which states "you are hereby notified that your services will not be required for the 2002-2003 school year."

Teacher 3/14

The treatment of teachers by the layoff action has been demoralizing.

Teacher 3/14

Honestly, I can't believe that the district handled the lay off notices the way that they did. I am insulted and angry. I have been teaching for over 20 years in Alameda. I have put in many extra hours and much of my own money into the classroom. I am a dedicated teacher. It was unreal when the district gave everyone a lay off notice. I have all my credentials, I have everything that is required to teach in this district, so why should a lay off notice be given to me? The morale is extremely low. I have never, in all my years of teaching, seen it this bad. The way the district went about doing the "lay off process" isn't acceptable. There needed to be a more individualized, sensitive way of going about it. Did anyone take into account what this would do to morale?

Parent 3/13

I totally agree and support theBoad for the layoff notices. I know it's hard but unfortunately, it was the only option you had. We didn't cause the budget problem, however, we have to deal with it. It was the fiscally prudent, responsible decision.

Teacher 3/13

I do understand the frustration you have with Sacramento regarding the budget. What has been ignored by the Board body is the fact that all other school districts with bigger budget problems worked on a process for determining which employees should receive the RIF notices. The reality is that AUSD could not get their act together to get a process going. Late last month we received notice that our actual sick leave couldn't be calcualted or reflected on our checks because a part time employee was off sick. There is widespread ineffective leadership in central office. The Superintendent's reasoning is that the district didn't want to single out individual teachers. What is happening at my site is that some "baby" teachers (New, Untenured) are verbalizing that the older teachers should lose their jobs instead of "them" because they costs the district too much money. This is very dangerous and devisive. You can imagine how morale has been affected during a time when teachers should be on top of their game as we meet with parents of students who are at risk and struggling. Also the hearing process pits teacher against teacher as we may be expected to justify our value to the district as well as assert senority rights. I'm sure that the board didn't get all the possible ramifications presented to them before they took action. Yes, parents as well as teachers are feeling that our staff has been disrespected, injured and retaliated against because of the calendar issue. As we go to the table to negotiate the new contract, the spirit of bargaining in good faith seems a lofty goal clouded by the district's choice in notifying all members of layoffs.

Parent 3/13

I received email from teachers today at Wood school re: the notice of termination they all received yesterday. While I suspect that much of this is proforma, and to allow AUSD the greatest flexibility, I also suspect that there may be layoffs looming. How much were teachers prepped for the notices they were handed yesterday and is there any realistic idea at this point of what the actual layoff potential is?

It is to everyone's benefit to be as open and proactive with information as possible when these kinds of issues arise, and my sense is that the teachers were quite taken aback yesterday. The element of surprise can be very disruptful and undermine relationships.

Parent 3/12

I am in a state of shock. My son's kindergarten teacher received a pink slip today, apparently along with ALL the other teachers in Alameda. This is an obscene way to treat these people who should have our utmost respect.

I understand there are budget problems and that some teachers may need to be let go, but THIS is not the way to do it. I'm sure all the teachers are well aware of the budget issues and know that cuts will be needed. How is firing them all going to enlist their help in dealing with the budget cuts when the new school year begins - or are my kids just not going to receive any more education?

When will their true fate be decided? How long are these professionals supposed to ponder their fate? How many educators are going to look to more stable pastures and leave our city?

I moved to Alameda years ago because I wanted my future children to be raised in this fantastic community and be able to attend Alameda public schools. As my kids have grown I have been involved in the classroom, on PTA boards, on the school site council and I have been inspired by how hard these teachers work and how much of themselves they give to each of the children in their classes. Each year they have made do with less and less financial support, our PTA has worked harder and harder to fund raise money to give back to the classroom and now this.

Please work whatever numbers you need to work and rescind these pink slips along with a heartfelt apology. There has got to be another way to deal with the cuts you need to make.

Teacher 3/12

What are you guys thinking about??? Pink slips for everyone??? I've been with AUSD for 30 years and I'm furious as well as feeling totally unapppreciated.

Teacher 3/12

I am totally demoralized to hear that after 32 years of devoted service to this district I am to receive a pink slip. I would think that some preplanning would be in order.

Teacher 3/12

As a teacher in this district I am very concerned about the preliminary notices to teachers- this will mean that all of the teachers have to file for a hearing- how much will this cost the district. In Marin Co. where I live, I have watched a much more organized process take place, in which teachers have been apprised of the situation in a timely manner and only a percentage are getting notices.

Parent 3/12

Is it true that the AUSD Board authorized send “March 15th” letters to all AUSD certificated employees?

Tell me it ain’t so!

Supposedly since the District doesn’t know the fiscal ramifications of the State budget they have elected to tell “everybody” they maybe laid-off.

That is what was reported today. For your website I can not tell what the resolution said.

If it is true, I think it is a questionable move. Certainly not one that is building any good will between AEA and AUSD “administration” or Board.

Teacher 3/12

I am a bit surprised that we are all going to get layoff notices this week. To be honest, as a veteran teacher, I am not worried, but it sure does not help morale as we head into sat 9/cat 6 season.

Parent 3/12

I was absolutely speechless when one of my three children came home today to tell me that every teacher and administrator in our district will receive a pink slip this week. Is this any way to show appreciation and respect for the people who put in long hours and make many personal sacrifices to teach our children, who are our future? I cannot believe that the board members would support this action, unless, you are truly planning on firing all these people.

I realize that every one must make sacrifices in these difficult times, but is it reasonable to balance the budget on the backs of our children? I am very concerned by this action that has been taken.


Alameda Unified School District

March 12, 2003

AUSD Reluctantly Sends Preliminary Lay-Off Notices to Prepare for Budget Cuts: School Board Will Hear Recommendations at March 25 Meeting

The Alameda Board of Education reluctantly joined school boards statewide Tuesday night, giving its teachers and administrators notice that some of them may be laid off. The notices are not "pink slips." State law requires that school districts notify certificated employees, those holding teaching credentials, by March 15, if there is any possibility of a layoff.

"In the present recession, Governor Davis has left us no choice," said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alan K. Nishino. "This district runs lean in the best of times. The latest State budget cuts will mean even less money for public education."

"Even though the full extent of the state cuts will not be know until sometime in the future, the Superintendent's Education Advisory Committee, (SEAC) a citizen and employee advisory committee, must consider every possible way to reduce the budget," according to Donna Fletcher, the District's public information officer. "The committee will consider the universe of possible cuts; not just personnel reductions. We want to keep all of our teachers in the classrooms."

Based on the committee's recommendations, the school board will consider public input at the March 25 and April 8 school board meetings. If the board needs to lay off any employees for the 2003-2004 school year, it must decide by May 15.

"We're hoping that the Governor will do more than pay lip service to California students, and approve a budget that allows us to keep our employees on the job," said Nishino.

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Last modified: March 15, 2003

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