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School board still debating rescinding teacher layoff notices

A proposal to rescind layoff notices to 112 probationary teachers failed in a vote Tuesday night by the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education, which then rescheduled consideration for a special meeting on Thursday.

The vote was 2-1 in favor of a motion by board member John Lee Evans to take back the notices for new teachers, with he and board President Richard Barrera in favor. Katherine Nakamura dissented and John De Beck abstained.

The measure needed a majority of the four board members present to pass.

The vote came without board member Shelia Jackson, whose absence could not be explained by district staff.

According to Evans, the teacher attrition rate meant the affected new instructors would just have to be recalled anyway.

The layoffs “no longer make financial or logistical sense and should be rescinded,” Evans said. “Even with a reduced budget we’re going to have to have these people.”

Phil Stover, who is now in charge of the district’s finances in wake of the recent departure of Chief Financial Officer James Masias, told board members that the rate of teachers who have put in for retirement or leave is at historic lows. However, teachers generally announce their retirement at the end of the school year, two weeks away.

It is “possible” that the district will need all the probationary teachers to fill vacant positions, Stover said.

Not long before the vote was taken, Stover informed board members that the California Department of Education had just announced it will reduce payments to districts based on attendance, which will mean $4.8 million less revenue for the San Diego Unified School District.

The school board now needs to rectify a $21 million deficit for the next fiscal year.

At least $16 million of that will have to come out of the personnel budget for teachers, whether through layoffs or some other formula, Barrera said.

One of those other formulas could be to dip into another account, called Tier III funds. Nakamura cast a dissenting vote on Evans motion because she wanted more information on alternate plans.