By Kathy Day
Students, parents, teachers and union representatives made it clear they don’t want any teachers laid off during a rally in front of La Jolla Elementary School Thursday morning.
Gathering at the main entrance on Marine Street as well as along Girard Avenue, where they handed out fliers and carried posters, the crowd at its height totaled 100 or so people. Others dropping off their children honked in support.
The school currently has “seven or eight” teachers on the list, according to SDEA President Bill Freeman who led the rally. One layoff notice has been rescinded, he said.
Prinicipal Donna Tripi, who was attending to school business Thursday morning including directing students towards class after the rally, was not immediately available for comment.
Melissa Roy-Wood, a fifth-grade LJES teacher who has been teaching for seven years, had good reason to be there. For the third time, she has received a pink slip notifying her that she may not have a job in the fall.
“When I’m here I try to put it out of my mind,” she said. “When you’re with the kids, you don’t think about it, but when I’m home … It makes you feel like a worker ant.”
She said she has gone to several school board meetings about the budget crisis and is running for an at-large seat on the San Diego Education Association board so she can represent the La Jolla Cluster as well as the Scripps Ranch and Mira Mesa schools.
Parent Fran Shimp, who represents LJES on the La Jolla Cluster Association, and her daughter were standing there with others. Her fourth-grader was wearing the same sandwich board she had worn as a kindergartner that read “No Education Cuts.“
Shimp said she wishes people would focus their attention on Sacramento where the decisions will be made that affect the local school districts.
Patricia Jimenez, a mother from City Heights who came to show her support for the teachers, was there with her third-grade son Adrian along side her, both carrying signs. She also has a son in high school and works in the area, she said.
“We need our teachers,” she said. “I’m so happy with this school. We need our teachers.”
SDEA leader Freeman led the rally, the 25th such gathering to help inform the community about the pending layoffs as the district faces a budget crisis that stands to grow worse, depending on action in Sacramento.
This week, the school board agreed to cancel 80 pink slips — of the 1335 issued, using redevelopment money to backfill what is currently estimated to be a $120 million budget hole. That deficit could grow by $55 million, depending on what happens in Sacramento.
If nothing is done in terms of extending the state tax that is expiring this year, some have proposed cutting the school year by five days, Freeman said. It is now 180 days, with San Diego teachers forced to take five furlough days.
“These are terrible times for education,” he said before the crowd gathers. “Of all the things that shouldn’t be touched, it should be our schools.”
He said he believes “we are not too far from people coming together and saying ‘Enough is enough.'”
When that happens, he added, people will be saying that we must “take care of those at home before other countries. The first night of bombing in Libya would have eliminated the problem here.”