District takes back pink slips
by Maddy Houk
Jun 14, 2012 | 911 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Newly appointed Superintendent Phil Alfano reversed a March vote by the local school board to issue a dozen preliminary pink slips, preserving the jobs of those teachers and staff members.

While still serving as the district’s interim leader last month, Alfano made the decision based on leftover federal categorical money in the district’s accounts.

Ruben Piña, the president of the Patterson Joint Unified School District board of trustees, said he was glad the district could keep those jobs.

“There’s more flexibility with Title 1 money, because we have a big percentage of low-economic families in our schools, so we qualify for Title 1 money, which supports instructional programs,” Piña said. “And so we carry those funds from year to year.”

The employees whose jobs were reinstated will be paid using the district’s categorical funds, which mostly come from federal sources, said Steve Menge, the school district’s assistant superintendent of administrative services. The state has allowed school districts financial flexibility during the next five fiscal years to use categorical funds for any educational purpose, he said.

Trustees voted March 5 to send 12 pink slips to preschool teachers and coaches for English-language learners.

Time was short, as school workers throughout the state must be notified of potential layoffs by March 15 and planned layoffs cannot be canceled after May 15, Menge explained.

Like many districts throughout California, Patterson schools faced budget cuts as the state legislature worked with a $16 billion budget shortfall that trickled down to the local level.

Pink slips were based on seniority, with the exception of employees who were needed to teach a specific course of study or who had special training and experience that others with more seniority lacked, Menge said.

However, several teachers and district employees said former Superintendent Esther Corral-Carlson made the decision to eliminate all English-learner coaching positions.

While those positions could be funded with federal categorical dollars, which were not threatened by the state’s deficits, Menge said an unnamed district official incorrectly thought money salvaged from those layoffs could go into the district’s general fund. Critics have named Corral-Carlson as that employee.

School staff members, teachers and parents of children in the district’s nine schools packed the March and April board meetings, imploring the trustees to keep the teachers and teachers’ aides who worked with children each day in the classroom. Aides, including English-learner coaches, help teachers by setting up testing rooms, administering tests and checking on newly enrolled students who are learning English, among other duties.

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or maddy@pattersonirrigator.com.

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