LJHS likely to lose 4 teachers

Principal: Class sizes will grow

La Jolla High School stands to lose four teaching positions next year, Principal Dana Shelburne said March 20 after getting his latest budget information from the San Diego Unified district office.

“My budget will support 3.8 fewer teachers, so I will need to have four teachers retire/take a leave/move to a different district in order to avoid declaring four teachers in excess,” he wrote in an e-mail March 20.

Given what he knew then, he added, about 700 students will have to be placed in the remaining classes that “on average, have to take 2.5 more students, which would push the average to about 38 per class.”

He qualified the number a bit, since some classes, such as AP French, wouldn’t have 2.5 more students qualified for the course.

The biggest impact will be in core courses where the class size might reach 39, he wrote.

Last year, the Foundation of La Jolla High School came to the rescue with its Save Our Teachers campaign, raising enough money to save four teachers and a part-time library technician.

But Jeff Jeffery, president of the foundation, said last week that the group “will be hard-pressed” to raise more, even though it knows the needs will be greater.

With two more major fundraisers coming up - a golf tournament and gala at the new Scripps Institution of Oceanography conference center - he says he’s optimistic that the foundation can raise what it’s hoping to for this year’s budget.

But, Jeffery added, “we’re having the same problems as anyone else” in this economy. “It’s tough, and we don’t expect it to be any easier.”

Shelburne said he doesn’t expect the group to come to the rescue again.

“The foundation cannot continue in the business of raising money to support teachers at the level they did this year,” he said. “There may be some minimal help, but we have decided we must face the realities of the cuts and work within our budgeted limits.”

The school district is facing a $146 million deficit for 2009-10 but said it does not want to lay off teachers, choosing initially to find funds by offering an early retirement incentive, cutting class sizes, reducing bus transportation and some programs, and making employees pay more health care. In addition, the district will save $10.3 million by closing all district facilities for four days, still to be determined.

But if negotiations with the teachers union aren’t successful, the district may have to take a second look at layoffs, Shelburne said, noting that the state Education Code has a clause that allows districts to turn to layoffs in a “financial crisis,” even if they missed the March 15 notification date the code outlines if positions are in jeopardy.

He added that he knows of three teachers out of the faculty of 65 who are considering retiring, moving or leaving the district. After that, he said, seniority comes into play on who will be “excessed.”

La Jolla High School is in a unique position as the only fully autonomous school in the district - and possibly the nation, Shelburne said. Under a contract with the school board, the school’s staff has “pure academic freedom” and controls its own staffing configuration selection of textbooks and course sequences as long as they meet the state guidelines, he explained.

“But we face the same budgetary constraints,” he added.

For details on district budget plans, go to