As the Denair Unified School District continues to struggle with its finances and leadership, some teachers are questioning the layoffs already made by the board of trustees.
Since December, 18 teachers have been issued pink slip notifications. According to the school district, those layoffs were issued based on seniority, proper credentialing and specific personnel need. The teachers' union has a different opinion, however.
Denair Unified Teachers Association President Barry Cole said the pink slips that were issued by the district were not done according to the education code, but rather by favoritism of Superintendent Ed Parraz — who is currently on administrative leave, pending termination of his contract — and district board members.
“It’s a huge mess,” said Cole. “Parraz was a very good politician and manipulated the board members in making the wrong decisions. He wanted to make sure some teachers would keep their jobs while well-deserving teachers who have more seniority than others were pink slipped. It doesn’t make any sense.
“The district issued pink slips to teachers who have more than enough seniority and they skip others who were lower in our seniority roster. It doesn’t make any sense unless there is some sort of favoritism going on.”
Among the teachers issued pink slips was seventh grade language arts and history teacher Rachel Watts, who back in 2011 received the California League of Middle Schools' Teacher of the Year award.
Watts said she was surprised to receive a layoff notice.
"I was preparing myself for the worst, but I was hoping for the best," she said.
The affected teachers have a right to a hearing before an administrative law judge before the layoffs become official on May 15.
"I have to do whatever it is I have to do for my family," Watts said when asked if she plans on fighting the layoff. "I love what I do. I can't imagine not teaching and not being there for my students."
The DUSD has been holding special meetings for the past three months in an effort to cut $1.4 million in ongoing spending to avoid a state takeover. Management salary cuts and staff layoffs will save the district an estimated $1million.
The district still has not reached contract agreements with the teachers' union.
“I want the right thing done for the district,” said Cole. “It’s about fixing the problem instead of just cutting the pay of teachers, classified employees and administration.”
At Thursday’s special board meeting, trustees voted to appoint Carol Hammond as short-term superintendent while they find an interim.
“We are compiling resumes at the moment and will proceed with the interview process as early as next week,” said Board President Robert Hodges.
Parraz was placed on administrative leave until the board can come to an agreement on the release of this contract, which is set to expire June 30, 2014.