School Board: Union objections can’t halt layoffs

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate April 16, 2014 06:44 pm

Despite opposition from union officials, Del Norte School Board members unanimously approved eliminating four positions and laying off three classified employees.

The positions include two part-time instructional assistants in the after-school program at Smith River School, a part-time instructional assistant in the computer lab at Pine Grove Elementary School and an assistant mechanic in the district’s transportation department. 

Eliminating those positions will save the district roughly $23,442, according to the district’s staff report.

Pamela Holloway, the district’s human resources director, said the three instructional assistant positions will be eliminated June 30. The action is immediate for the assistant mechanic position, which is vacant.

“In transportation last year we did a reorganization and we had had a mechanic position open up and the director at the time wanted to back-fill it with an assistant mechanic,” Holloway said, adding that Derrick Campbell, who had been a mechanic, recently became the department’s interim director. “It’s been realized we really need that higher level to help maintain the buses and other vehicles we have in transportation.”

Board members unanimously approved bringing back the mechanic position.

According to Holloway, Smith River and Pine Grove principals Paige Swan and Lara Hirt recommended eliminating the three instructional assistant positions. Enrollment in Smith River’s after-school program has dwindled to about 60 students this year, Holloway said. 

Holloway also cited a lack of need for the instructional assistant at Pine Grove, saying teachers will be helping their students in the computer lab.

“In doing that they don’t really need the IA computer person in there any more,” she said.

Holloway said the three employees filling the instructional assistant positions will have top priority if those positions become necessary again. 

Patti Rommel, president of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association, which represents classified staff, said Smith River’s after-school program lost 20 to 30 kids due to the elimination of a bus pickup that would have taken them home. The program should serve 92 students, she said.

“When I was involved in after-school programs they had over 120, 130, even 140 kids in the program,” Rommel said. “But when they eliminated after-school transportation, most of those students relied on it. They didn’t have any other choice than to take the last bus home, which is now the only bus home because of single dismissal.”

Rommel also pointed out that the district would be receiving more funding through the Local Control Funding Formula and said some of that extra money could be used for the after-school program.

Regarding the Pine Grove instructional assistant position, Rommel said CSEA and district officials had agreed that teachers wouldn’t take on responsibilities that had once belonged to a classified employee. This could include fixing any computer glitches that arise, she said.

“Teachers need to be teaching. They don’t need to be technicians figuring out why isn’t the computer connecting to the printer or why isn’t the screen resolution right,” Rommel said. “Those teachers need that support and the fact is it was established as classified work.”

Superintendent Don Olson said classified workers don’t man all the computer labs in the district. There are five computer labs at Del Norte High School and none of them are operated by classified staff, he said.

Olson acknowledged Rommel’s statement regarding the Local Control Funding Formula and the extra funding Del Norte public schools would be receiving. But he said the district is currently developing its Local Control Accountability Plan, which will dictate how that money will be spent.

Officials have spent the last few weeks collecting input from various stakeholders, including community members, students, teachers and parents, Olson said. The district is working with the California Center for Rural Policy to help compile that data.

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