The trustees of the “regrettably” authorized the letting go of 346 teachers, counselors, psychologists and nurses at a special meeting Tuesday night.
All of the employees are called “certificated,” meaning they have a teaching credential. They are currently operating on temporary contracts, although many had previously been permanent or probationary employees, said Marcus Walton, district spokesman.
“This district must prepare for the worst-case scenario,” Jodee Brentlinger, assistant superintendent of personnel services, told the board. The district faces a budget shortfall it now estimates between $13 million and $30 million. Releasing the temporary teachers would save the district $34.6 million.
Brentlinger added that in years past, the district has been able to re-hire most of the employees it let go.
“This agenda item is making me heartsick,” said Trustee Sue Palazzo. “I don’t know how we can restore salaries one month and then consider the layoff of almost 400 teachers” the next.
Palazzo was referring to a partial restoration of that the district announced earlier this month. Because the finalized 2010-11 budget included more money than originally anticipated, the district restored two days to the academic calendar and some teacher salaries.
To end the April teachers strike, the teachers agreed to a 10.1 percent pay cut and five non-paid furlough days as long as they received assurances that the district would restore the days and pay should the financial outlook improve.
When the state Legislature finally approved California's budget for 2010-11 in October, it included $13.5 million beyond what the district was expecting. Superintendent Joseph Farley and some trustees say the extra money triggered the , while others—including Trustee Ellen Addonizio, former Trustee Mike Winsten and other district watchdogs—are doubtful.
Farley said the restoration of teacher salaries is a completely separate issue from the release of the temporary teachers.
“We felt compelled to honor the negotiated agreement in place,” Farley said. He added that he didn’t think he could return to the teachers union, the Capistrano Unified Education Association, to ask for further cuts for the 2011-12 year without living up to the current contract.
Trustee Bryson agreed. If the salaries weren’t restored, the district “would lose future faith and trust,” she said.
Trustee Lynn Hatton said she hoped the loss of temporary employees would encourage people to discuss and support a measure Gov. Jerry Brown wants on the June ballot to extend temporary sales, motor and income taxes.
“This is very personal to me. These are my kids’ teachers. These are your kids’ teachers,” she said. “It’s not an easy decision for any of us.”
The board voted 4-2, with Trustees Addonizio and Palazzo voting against and Gary Pritchard absent.
Editor's Note: Trustee Sue Palazzo's name was incorrectly spelled, and her reaction to the layoffs was incorrectly attributed to Trustee Ellen Addonizio in an earlier version of this article.