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MJC professors end day of testimony

Decision regarding layoffs expected May 18

POSTED April 15, 2011 10:37 p.m.

The administrative hearing between lawyers representing the Yosemite Community College District and those representing Modesto Junior College staff eliminated in recent budget cuts continued Wednesday morning, with the affected staff testifying for most of the day.

Those staff members laid off contend they had seniority, and should have legally “bumped” into positions in similar disciplines for which they are qualified, displacing junior faculty members.

The instructors believe they qualified for other disciplines based on the Minimum Qualifications code, which establishes base standards for teacher competency, at the time of their hire. The district argued that the instructors should not be granted minimum qualifications at the time of hire that they must meet those qualifications today, and that in most cases instructors do not meet the minimum qualifications.

The two sides went back and forth on every point, rushing at times to end by the noon deadline for the hearing to conclude. No rulings were made on Wednesday; the hearing was intended to establish a record of evidence and testimony before legal arguments are made via briefs.

“I'm letting you both make your record and then you're going to argue this,” said Jonathan Lew, the Administrative Law Judge from the state Office of Administrative Hearings who oversaw the hearing.

Both attorneys will submit legal briefs as closing statements on or before May 10. Responses to opposing briefs will be due May 11, and Lew will file a decision by May 18.

Lew isn’t tasked with evaluating budget decisions, deciding what programs or positions are important, or even whether teachers performed their jobs well or competently. His job is merely to determine whether the YCCD’s actions were appropriate in accordance with California Code.

The district must establish that cause exists to reduce its employment, and that proper consideration was given to teacher credentials, seniority, bumping rights and retirements.

Both sides sparred over every instructor’s qualifications, with district counsel going as far as to question whether some professors should have been hired in the first place.

A total of 15 professors were initially named as parties to the hearing, but three were removed. One was offered a new position, one retired and a third was offered a position the retiree would have inherited.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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