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School district finds assignments for teachers

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) has now found teaching assignments for the new school year for many of the 204 probationary teachers who had been laid off by the district on June 30. Of the 204 probationary teachers who received lay-off notices in June, 135 have now been given temporary classroom placements, filling in for tenured teachers who are taking leaves of absence.

“This is good news on two fronts,” said SDUSD Superintendent Terry Grier. “We were able to have enough temporary positions available to bring back so many of these outstanding educators, and at the same time we were able to better balance our staffing needs to our student enrollment.”

As of August 27, 2008, the total number of teachers employed by the district for the new school year will be 8,102, an overall reduction of 332 teaching positions from the previous year-including the 214 probationary positions that were eliminated.

This reduction in our permanent teacher staffing level is a critical step in aligning our budget with the reality of declining student enrollment,” said Grier. “While we will continue to retain a quality teaching staff that helps us meet our goals for improved student achievement, we must also run the district in a more business-like manner. That means making staffing adjustments each year.”

During the 10-year period between 1997 and 2007, enrollment of non-charter school students in the district decreased from 129,584 to 110,280, a 14.9% decline. During that same period, overall teacher staffing actually increased by 9%.

This year, the siutation was further complicated by the massive budget cuts that led to the reduction of 198 central office administrators and numerous categorical teaching positions. Many of those laid off are entitled to teaching jobs under state law based on seniority.

As a result, even though the district had the usual vacancies due to leaves of absence and/or resignations or retirements, and even though a number of new teaching positions were created due to class size reduction initiatives for grades K-2 and for 9th grade English, not enough permanent teaching positions were available for the probationary teachers.

“I strongly sympathize with every teacher who is committed to the profession and also, understandably, seeks job security,” said Grier. “We all know how much our students have benefited from our many exceptionally talented new teachers. But with budget cuts and continued declines in enrollment projected for the foreseeable future, we have a responsibility to make these difficult adjustments.”