Local School District Board Approves Potential Layoffs

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A month after the Berkeley Unified School District sent its first set of potential layoff notices to employees, the Board of Education approved a list of classified positions yesterday that may be eliminated at the end of June.

The notices will be sent in mid-May to employees of 36 classified positions. These jobs, which do not require certification, include positions such as administrative assistants, program coordinators and custodians.

Classified employees are required by law to be notified of possible layoffs at least 45 days in advance, according to district spokesperson Mark Coplan.

About 50 percent of the district's 1,500 workers are classified employees, he said.

Coplan said it is difficult to determine the number of people who would be affected. Because not all positions subject to elimination are full-time, individuals who hold more than one part-time position may receive more than one notice.

"It's really hard to address specifically how many people it affects," Coplan said.

In addition to the 36 classified positions that may be eliminated, the district is considering reducing the work year for 11 other classified positions.

School district board member John Selawsky said some classified employees who receive notices may receive a different position.

Antoinette Douglas, parent of a Longfellow Magnet Middle School student, said the loss of classified employees would have an adverse effect on the school.

"(Classified employees are) a very vital part of the maintenance of the school," she said.

Coplan said all the potential layoff notices sent out this year are due to state cuts resulting in a $4.5 million shortfall in the district's 2009-2010 budget.

In mid-March, 124 teachers and counselors and eight administrators received notices that their jobs may be in jeopardy.

A majority of the notices have been rescinded to date, according to Coplan.

Because additional notices cannot be sent after May 17, Coplan said the district needs to send the maximum number possible before that deadline. The staff reductions-along with cuts to other areas-may be necessary to adjust to budget cuts.

"It's an unfortunate situation," he said. "It's worse than it has been in the past and the layoffs are more likely to happen (this year)."

Selawsky said the potential cuts for all types of employees put a strain on the district.

"It's a hardship for the district because we're already under-resourced and understaffed," he said.

Douglas said the cuts are very depressing considering the achievement gap in the district.

"I don't know how we can continue to adequately educate our kids if we are always laying (people) off, if we are always cutting the budget," she said.


Tess Townsend covers local schools. Contact her at [email protected]

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