Eleven Temecula Valley Unified School District elementary school specialists have only a few more days before their layoff notices officially go into effect, but district officials are hoping to find other positions for them by the end of month before final termination.
With the layoffs looming, teachers, shareholders and families across the school district gathered Tuesday, May 2 at the regular district board meeting to discuss the layoff notices given to various elementary school specialists.
Rallying to protect the positions of the Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts and Positive Behavior Support specialists being threatened with layoffs, teachers held signs reading “All students matter” and “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
While it has been proposed to reduce the specialized services, the district is not cutting the programs from the schools entirely, they propose a reduction in the frequency for specialists to teach in the classrooms. According to Public Relations Officer Laura Boss, when producing the initial proposal “administration tried to provide to the board a way to maintain consistency in programs without completely decimating them.” Current to the districts; Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) reductions will cut four VAPA and PE teachers from their respective specialists as decided during an April 10 TVUSD Board Workshop.
The amount of meeting time allocated for public commenters was extended to accommodate the large number of requests that came to speak on the layoff issue. Eighteen speakers voiced their concerns regarding cuts to the PE, VAPA and PBIS programs for elementary schools.
Since layoff notices went out in March, the district has until June 13 to finalize their LCAP budget for the 2017-2018 school year and present the budget to the shareholders June 2. The initial particular kind of services (PKS) reduction list of 54.6 services equated the reduction of 21 employee positions, but the district since rescinded 11of those positons leaving the 10 employees on layoff notice. If not rescinded by May 15, their layoff will become official. The final board workshop will be hosted May 30 when the board synthesizes the data collected through the regional CAP meetings, District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) meetings and online surveys, along with feedback given during board meetings.
Board President Sandy Hinkson explained, “And part of that too is that even though there is a proposal to reduce the number of specialists, we aren’t reducing programs. The instruction will still be provided partially by a specialist with the remainder of the subject given from the multi-subject credentialed teacher.” Based on her previous years as a multi-subject credentialed teacher, Hinkson and the board indicated they are optimistic in the capabilities of the teachers to provide quality instruction.
The public commenters before the board, however, emphasized the technical training of the specialists and how they would be lost with less instructional time.
The 200 minutes of physical education mandated by the state currently is filled with half of the instruction provided by specialists and the remaining half by a multi-credentialed teacher. With the proposed cuts, students would have approximately 40-45 minutes a week done with a specialist and the remained by their multi-subject teacher, according to Boss.
In regards to the PBIS counselor, numerous speakers referred to Temecula Luiseno Elementary counselor Ms. Yoder and the effect of her work with students. Arguing for her quintessential role in assisting mental health and anxiety disorders at an early age, the testimony left the board with new considerations in cutting the PBIS program. In the proposed LCAP Actions and Services, the three district PBIS counselors would be laid off, but keep the Friendship Rooms. At the seven elementary schools with the program, the Friendship Room is a safe room controlled by a classified employee as a place for students to go to gather their thoughts in a non-stressful environment. The seven classified instructional assistants, would remain at the schools, however the counselors would be removed as would their individual and group sessions for strategic interventions.
The public comments made that evening will be considered by the board when finalizing their budget and LCAP reductions, however, district officials said they will continue to work to reduce through bumping and filling classroom positions with those currently with a layoff notice. If the employee meets the criteria for a position, they may be offered a new position rather than termination.
Other issues were brought up during the May 2 meeting when TVEA President Jeff Kingsberg questioned Item 15, on the agenda and ELA/ELD (English reading and language) Textbook Adoption, costing $6.9 million. He pointed out a discrepancy in the district’s proposed cost reductions to relieve the budget deficit through suspending or reducing future textbook adoptions. The textbooks have been reviewed for the K-8 schools and still being reviewed in the high schools. The textbook adoptions will be reviewed May 22. With that, Kingsberg suggested financial prudence in making the textbook purchases and suggested a phase-in process. The Board has already set aside money for the purchase of the K-8 textbook purchases, according to PIO Boss.
Until then, the Board remains open for feedback regarding their LCAP Actions and Services. As Hinkson expressed, “I personally will go and visit some schools, sit through some lunch times, and talk to teachers,” before synthesizing the information and listening to the public commenters’ wish for the board to look to where the district will be affected. There are several remaining LCAP Survey and Input Meetings including an Advisory Committee set for Thursday, May 11, at the district office open to the public. Regular TVUSD Board meetings will continue June 13 and 27.