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Teachers’ flexibility under fire

District cannot afford to give permanent status to more teachers, official says.

December 17, 2008|By Zain Shauk

GLENDALE — Opinions were split over the possibility of converting more temporary teachers toward permanent contracts during a discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education.

The debate followed an explanation about why a recent decision to transition 64 teacher contracts toward permanent status might put the district in a precarious position, according to John Garcia, assistant superintendent of human resources.

The district currently needs 243 temporary teachers and will now have only 236 to fill positions that are funded by specific funding grants, Garcia said, explaining that 109 of those positions accommodate jobs funded by specific state grants where teachers are on leave, and another 134 fund increased staffing for class-size reduction programs.

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The district tries to maintain 243 temporary teachers in case it loses state funding for a specific grant, so that it would not have to lay off employees, but could instead decide not to renew one-year teacher contracts, Garcia said.

“Tomorrow we’ll be short by seven contract teachers and thereby losing some flexibility,” Garcia said.

But board Clerk Chuck Sambar argued that the district was being too cautious and did not need to maintain 236 temporary teachers, especially since it usually replaces between 60 and 100 teachers every year.

“I would feel very comfortable, knowing that historically we have had a need to hire 60 to 100 people. I’m suggesting 50 people for starters,” Sambar said of the possible amount of temporary contracts to begin converting toward permanent status. “If that’s possible, I think without jeopardizing our flexibility, I think this would be a very compassionate and flexible way to deal with this because this is a very large number [of temporary teachers].”

But with the state budget in peril, any action regarding contracts may be too rash at this time, board Vice President Mary Boger said.

“We are like blind people without a cane wearing earmuffs and potholders on our hands,” Boger said of the constantly changing deficit projections she has heard from state educators. “We simply have no idea of what’s going to happen.”

Supt. Michael Escalante was concerned about cutting down on any quotas for filling positions that may have unreliable funding, but said he would report to the board on the possibility of adding 50 more teachers.

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