A San Diego Unified school board member is floating a controversial plan to deviate from rehiring teachers chiefly based on seniority.

School board member Scott Barnett hopes to keep the same teachers at the same schools, saying that if teachers are hired mainly on seniority some successful teaching teams could be broken up at disadvantaged schools.

“The threat posed to ‘high poverty, high-need students’ by disassembling these academic teams creates a clear and present danger to the success of these students,” Barnett wrote in a memo to the board.

Under California law, teachers are usually laid off and rehired based on how long they have worked in the school district. The least experienced teachers lose their jobs, and those with the most experience get them back.

That usually causes more turnover and disruption at the most disadvantaged schools, which tend to have newer teachers than schools in more affluent areas.

But there are some exceptions to the rules. Schools can skip over teachers who are highly needed or hold rare credentials. They can also deviate from last-in-first-out layoffs to ensure kids have equal rights under the state constitution.

Barnett’s idea sparked anger from the teachers union, which argued it was illegal and “designed to take swipes at our core union rights.” Union President Bill Freeman said that the real problem was that the school district is holding off on rehiring all the teachers in grades K-3 who were laid off.

Los Angeles Unified skipped some of its neediest schools after civil rights groups sued the school district. That put more senior teachers at other schools on the chopping block. Teachers unions argue that only hurts other schools and say seniority is the fairest way to handle the painful process.

San Diego Unified has steered clear of any similar plans to skip needy schools. But it took a step that would seemingly have stopped the problem in the first place: It decided to keep classes for its smallest students from ballooning in size next year, sparing roughly 300 jobs for teachers.

Yet so far, it has only rehired 86 teachers who were laid off. The school district says before it rehires any more, it is trying to place teachers who were displaced from other schools but not laid off. That kind of displacement happens when student enrollment drops at schools, causing them to need fewer teachers.

Rehiring the most senior teachers first can stop the same teachers from going back to the same schools. For instance, if a fourth grade teacher who was laid off because of dropping enrollment has spent more time in the school district than a third grade teacher who was laid off because of growing class sizes, that fourth grade teacher could be rehired to take the job the third grade teacher used to hold.

Freeman argued that the larger problem that is disrupting teams of teachers is not seniority, but that the school district is trying to plug displaced teachers into the holes that were left by inflating class sizes. If all of the K-3 teachers were rehired, he said, they could go back to the schools they came from.

An email from the union to teachers also argued that it was illegal for San Diego Unified to use different criteria to cancel layoffs than they used when they issued the layoffs in the first place.

We explained the seniority-based system, known as “last in, first out” in this San Diego Explained with NBC7 San Diego:

The school board will vote on the idea this afternoon. It looks like it will be a lengthy meeting: The board is also voting on whether to shutter an embattled charter school, choosing which charter will get a spot in the planned downtown library, hashing out the first steps toward closing schools, and giving the superintendent his report card, among a long list of other issues.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

 

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    Written by Emily Alpert

    24 comments
    John de Beck
    John de Beck subscriber

    ional memory and are only looking to the next election!

    deBeck
    deBeck

    ional memory and are only looking to the next election!

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    What you really need is a school system that has no grade levels based on ages but based on mastery of the subject. It must be flexible enough for a child to be in 4th level reading but 2nd level math if that is where they are developmentally. They should be able to study at their own pace and advance whenever they are ready, not just at the end of the arbitrary year. (Calendar, fiscal, school, whatever) But that isn't going to happen. It would be far too costly to provide such an individualized learning program for all students. Plus you'd never be able to align it with NCLB standardized testing.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    What you really need is a school system that has no grade levels based on ages but based on mastery of the subject. It must be flexible enough for a child to be in 4th level reading but 2nd level math if that is where they are developmentally. They should be able to study at their own pace and advance whenever they are ready, not just at the end of the arbitrary year. (Calendar, fiscal, school, whatever) But that isn't going to happen. It would be far too costly to provide such an individualized learning program for all students. Plus you'd never be able to align it with NCLB standardized testing.

    ScrippsDad
    ScrippsDad subscriber

    Scott - let's hope you get a second followed by a supporting third vote and the Trustees show their priority to kids education and not continue to cave to Bill Freeman rants.

    ScrippsDad
    ScrippsDad

    Scott - let's hope you get a second followed by a supporting third vote and the Trustees show their priority to kids education and not continue to cave to Bill Freeman rants.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    I thank my lucky stars that I attended public school here in the 40s and 50s, and my kids did as well, escaping in the early 70s when the system hadn't yet been strangled by the bureaucracy and the unions, i.e., when local school boards still had control of both policy and budgets. And, please, spare me the "rebuttal" about the alleged evils of Prop. 13.

    toulon
    toulon

    I thank my lucky stars that I attended public school here in the 40s and 50s, and my kids did as well, escaping in the early 70s when the system hadn't yet been strangled by the bureaucracy and the unions, i.e., when local school boards still had control of both policy and budgets. And, please, spare me the "rebuttal" about the alleged evils of Prop. 13.

    Scott Hasson
    Scott Hasson subscriber

    I hope that when my son is old enough to attend there will be a school to attend that can actually teach him something. Right now, private schools sure look like the better option. SDUSD might be better to be controlled back under the Mayors office. At least there would be someone in charge, not the union minions.

    scotthasson
    scotthasson

    I hope that when my son is old enough to attend there will be a school to attend that can actually teach him something. Right now, private schools sure look like the better option. SDUSD might be better to be controlled back under the Mayors office. At least there would be someone in charge, not the union minions.

    sbarnett
    sbarnett

    Scottbarnettsdusd@gmail.com

    Dennis Schamp
    Dennis Schamp subscriber

    naturenerd: That's OK - everyone's entitled to their opinion. However, as a union member, we have a contract that was fairly bargained with the district, and seniority is part of that contract. While there are ineffective teachers out there, I'd rather see their school's administration work with that teacher to make them more effective in the classroom, rather than have them just step down...wouldn't you?

    Dennis Schamp
    Dennis Schamp

    naturenerd: That's OK - everyone's entitled to their opinion. However, as a union member, we have a contract that was fairly bargained with the district, and seniority is part of that contract. While there are ineffective teachers out there, I'd rather see their school's administration work with that teacher to make them more effective in the classroom, rather than have them just step down...wouldn't you?

    ScrippsDad
    ScrippsDad subscriber

    BTW - I wonder where the "senior" teachers have applied in the Post and Bid process? I wonder how many of those needy schools were on their selection list. I think I'll go after this data, I believe it would be extremely interesting to see where teachers themselves prefer to teach within the District and answer some of the SDEA "truths" posed within these articles.

    ScrippsDad
    ScrippsDad

    BTW - I wonder where the "senior" teachers have applied in the Post and Bid process? I wonder how many of those needy schools were on their selection list. I think I'll go after this data, I believe it would be extremely interesting to see where teachers themselves prefer to teach within the District and answer some of the SDEA "truths" posed within these articles.

    Kevin Flynn
    Kevin Flynn subscriber

    As a member of the teacher's union, I want to say that the union does NOT represent my view on this issue. I applaud the board's efforts to keep effective staffs stable at struggling schools. If you are an effective teacher with tenure, then you should have nothing to worry about. If you're an ineffective teacher with tenure, step aside and let an effective person educate our children.

    naturenerd
    naturenerd

    As a member of the teacher's union, I want to say that the union does NOT represent my view on this issue. I applaud the board's efforts to keep effective staffs stable at struggling schools. If you are an effective teacher with tenure, then you should have nothing to worry about. If you're an ineffective teacher with tenure, step aside and let an effective person educate our children.

    Nikena Carter
    Nikena Carter subscriber

    Are teachers with senority the best for our kids? Sometimes the teachers who have been teaching for years tend to get burnt out and have a "I dont care anymore" attitude. We need teachers who care and want to see our children succeed instead of just doing their jobs and getting a paycheck. New teachers can sometimes have fresh ideas and are still concerned about ALL children. So having senority does not always mean your right for the job......

    Nikena
    Nikena

    Are teachers with senority the best for our kids? Sometimes the teachers who have been teaching for years tend to get burnt out and have a "I dont care anymore" attitude. We need teachers who care and want to see our children succeed instead of just doing their jobs and getting a paycheck. New teachers can sometimes have fresh ideas and are still concerned about ALL children. So having senority does not always mean your right for the job......

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    Sometimes being excessed is an opportunity.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    Sometimes being excessed is an opportunity.

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