Maria Elena Millings instructs Alexander, 4, in the Mobile Waterford Lab.

Paul Wellman

Maria Elena Millings instructs Alexander, 4, in the Mobile Waterford Lab.

Beware the Pink Slip

Temporary Teachers Again Caught in Bermuda Triangle of Layoffs

Thursday, March 14, 2013
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Teaching in a van is not for everybody. That’s something temporary teacher Maria Elena Millings learned after the 2008-2009 school year when her assignment ended and she was not rehired. A permanent teacher took her place working in the Mobile Waterford Lab, a job that requires not only teaching language skills to 4-year-olds but also driving a rebadged Mission Linen Supply truck around the city. Millings’s successor hated the job, parents had issues with her, and they stopped bringing their kids to the lab, which is the one of the Santa Barbara school district’s critical dams against unprepared kindergarteners, especially English learners.

At the February 26 school board meeting, the trustees approved end-of-assignment notices for 77 temporary teachers including Millings. (Trustee Pedro Paz abstained because his wife is a temporary teacher, and, for full disclosure, so is the wife of this reporter.) Such teachers are funded by impermanent money streams like parcel taxes or categorical funds. Millings depends on private donations for her salary. Thus, for four years she has been hired for a one-year assignment and notified in March that her assignment ends when the school year does, and then she waits all summer to find out if she will get her job again. “It’s scary,” she said, “because I have a family ​— ​my older child is in college ​— ​a mortgage, car payments.” Some temporary teachers must reapply and reinterview every year.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the district also issued layoff notices for eight permanent probationary high school math teachers, a legal flexibility it is allowed to deal with budget shortfalls. The trouble is districts don’t really know how many teachers they can afford by the March 15 deadline for sending notices, so they tend to over-notice. Republican Senate leader Bob Huff has introduced legislation moving the deadline to June 1, aligning noticing to the state budgeting process.

“It’s disruptive to the remainder of the school year, it’s not good for kids, and I wish it was different,” he said.

School Superintendent David Cash, who said he was laid off his first three years as a teacher, called the misalignment between noticing and budgeting a “nightmare.” “It’s disruptive to the remainder of the school year, it’s not good for kids, and I wish it was different,” he said.

Not all teachers get hired back, though. Layne Wheeler, president of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association, said, “The current deadlines give employees a reasonable opportunity to find work in other districts that may have openings. Deadlines proposed in [Huff’s bill] AB 559 would mean teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, and other certificated personnel could have as little time as two weeks to find a new position elsewhere.” Furthermore, he said, “I don’t think that changing the dates is going to be a substantial change,” noting that the Legislature often doesn’t hammer out a workable budget for schools until August or September and suggesting that legislators “get off their duffs” to provide timely budgets. In speaking with The Santa Barbara Independent, a spokesperson for Huff countered that the last two budgets have been completed on time and that the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates notices cost $706 per teacher.

Temporary teachers also lose union protection by the end of their assignments. The district can’t pay for them to participate in summer professional development opportunities. And while it typically takes three years for a probationary (or new) teacher to earn tenure, that clock never starts ticking for temporary teachers, so they gather no seniority.

On the other hand, a permanent teacher can be knocked back into temporary status. Such is the case with Alex Sheldon, a San Marcos health teacher who started in the district in 2004. He gained tenure after three years but then began receiving consecutive pink slips until he lost his preferential job status, which expires after 39 months. He is now working on a temporary contract. A ubiquitous fixture at San Marcos, Sheldon has coached tennis, softball, and basketball, and he is supposed to head up the new Entrepreneurship Academy in the fall. The only catch is that the district can’t guarantee he’ll be there then.

Wheeler said that in the past, principals have assured temporary faculty members that they will rehire them only to find out that funding is not available. While principals can ask for specific employees, they don’t have the authority to make hires.

On the brighter side, the combination of a more settled budget, the passage of Proposition 30, and efforts on behalf of the superintendent has shrunk the numbers of those receiving pink slips. In 2011, 105 permanent teachers and 102 temporary teachers were noticed. “Although I don’t like to see any of our teachers laid off,” said Trustee Ed Heron from the dais, “this is the least number I’ve seen since I’ve been on the board.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

These are not Pink Slips. An actual Pink Slip means that you lost your job. Everyone knows this is a political game to scare voters. If these teachers are so horribly terrified to only get one year guaranteed contracts, a luxury in this economy, they could change professions.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love teachers and think they deserve a lot more than they get. But in my industry a one year contract is a blessing.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2013 at 11:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Without effective and dedicated teachers our society is in great trouble... I've been teaching 33 years in an independent school and have always gotten simple one-year contracts.
However, Italiansurg, from the Fastman article the issue is "the misalignment between noticing and budgeting", and it seems not to be a contrived political game. You're calling it "a political game to scare voters" but it isn't -- you may be still stuck in your anti-Prop. 30 position, and hatred of taxes.
Becoming a good teacher takes some security of employment, so I think public school teachers do need more security in their contracts -- perhaps not "tenure" but more assurance. How do we keep fine teachers in the public schools when we jack them around like this all the time??

DrDan (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2013 at 1:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I heard the head of the CTA on a bay area radio station today. He was pathetic. When asked about last years "pink slips" he finally admitted after a caller pointed out that he had been lying, that of the +30,000 sent out, less than 3,000 of the TEMPORARY teaching positions did not get their contract renewed.
I pay more taxes than most and I do not hate taxes. I hate a lack of accountability.
Bringing up my opposition to prop 30 at this point is kind of comical since:
It did not balance the budget as we were told which I pointed out in advance;
It does not go to schools in the proportion that we were told which I pointed out in advance;
The funds CAN GO to the general fund as I pointed out in advance which even Jerry B has admitted after the election.
Teachers have done the same intellectually dishonest thing that people have done in my profession; refuse objective metrics for evaluation in order to protect themselves. I've railed against my peers for years and the teachers, even worse, are using tax money.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2013 at 3:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Having read some state reports from committees that were brought in to analyze out district, they seemed to say SB Schools are overstaffed with declining enrollment. If thats the case why is this a big deal. The overstaffing seemed to be more in administration and facilities as well as the district completely overstepping the early childhood funding into a daycare w/ a deficit - but with enrollments on a decline it would make sense.

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2013 at 8:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

not clear what you're interpreting from these reports, ptsouth? The SB admin would claim & show you they've cut admin a lot...don't know if this is true... but the way power and hierarchy work, wouldn't the cuts usually fall at the bottom, at the lowest-paid & most recently hired (usually) younger teachers? And even I acknowledge you have to have some admin. But yeah, going wider, I'm read to get rid of all the County Educ Offices.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 6:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

IS - That's right. And the next time any governmental body wants a tax increase, they'll put teachers, firemen and policemen right to the front of the chopping block. They have learned by experience that threatening to cut vital public services first is an effective tool in promoting a tax increase.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 6:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

but the point for me is that public education IS indeed a "vital public service" and it needs to be funded adequately...and sure, effectively and without waste. Botany, like IS, your main angle is that you won't have to pay more, being a landlord and all that.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 11:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And I agree with you that it is Dan. But what is below the belt is always putting vital public services like police, fire, teachers etc. on the chopping block first in order to justify their schemes to increase taxes.

These politicians know perfectly well that if they say they need the money for the general fund, legislative salaries or pensions, the proposed tax increase will be dropped like a hot rock by the voting public.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I really think we need to hasten the departure of the GOP and Dems. Start looking at other parties that more closely match your beliefs/ideas or just go indie.
A HUGE problem here in SB is that just because someone has a "D" next to their name we assume they're competent and even honest.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I certainly don't make that assumption! In fact, when it comes to finance, most Democratic politicians are far from competent.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 11:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's not pretend the "republicans" are more competent. Both entrenched parties have become one party.
Want to get rid of Social Security, has to be a "Dem" Pres to do it; want to take away guns, have the "Repub" do it.
That way there'll be less resistance because "hey the 'good guy' says it's ok!"

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 12:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany, check out the increase in national debt under your Republican President Bush 43 -- WHOPPING and out of control. But KV's right, both parties deserve major blame for this, but so do the voters for voting in such fiscal incompetents. I give you one: neither Das W. or Hanna Beth are now talking about capping public pensions, which we agree is needed.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2013 at 2:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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