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Snowline district faces teacher layoffs

March 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Another local school district is about to lose dozens of its teachers. Snowline Joint Unified School District in San Bernardino County may ax as many as 80 teachers. A meeting was held in Phelan to talk about the layoffs.At Snowline there is a budget deficit of $3 million, and that leaves school administrators with a difficult decision of whether or not to lay off almost 80 teachers. If they do decide to do layoffs, that would account for almost 20 percent of the teaching workforce.

Vista Verde Elementary School in Victorville is one of the best performing schools in the area. But it could be hit hardest, with more than half the teachers here given pink slips.

"If our school were to lose as many teachers as they do, or will, we're going to be devastated, obviously," said parent Nakia Wilson.

It's frustrating to parents like Wilson, who has two kids who attend. She wonders why administrators would want to take one of the best performing staffs in the district and break it up.

Administrators say they have no choice because if they decide to lay teachers off, those with least seniority get hit first -- people like fifth-grade teacher Lynn Minnaia who got her pink slip two weeks ago.

"It's extremely hard," said Minnaia. "I have three children of my own, so not having health benefits next year, not knowing if I might get called back next year -- the whole roller coaster."

"Well it's the toughest thing I've ever had to do in 37 years of education," said Snowline Joint Unified School District Superintendent Art Golden.

Superintendent Golden says they're going to try to do everything possible to reduce the number of layoffs. At Tuesday afternoon's budget meeting, they considered furloughs and even a wage freeze. But even if all they do that, only about half the teachers given pink slips in this small district will get to come back.

"It's a little more difficult in the smaller districts, when you put the layoffs notices out we know those people, know them personally, their families, their kids, and that's what makes it so tough I think," said Golden.

And the Golden did point out that the enrollment is down anyway, so they probably would have to lay off 15 teachers in any event. If they do have to lay off 80 teachers, class size would go way up, reportedly anywhere from one to five more students per classroom.


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