Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/29/2010 02:33:00 PM PDT

San Bernardino City Unified School District officials are considering laying off more than 400 classified employees and teachers by the end of the school year.

The employee cuts, along with reducing the school year by five days and eliminating student programs, have all been proposed by the district to eliminate a $30 million budget shortfall for the 2010-11 school year.

“Layoffs always affect all the school sites. No one wants to see a colleague lose their job and even people who didn’t get the preliminary notices are nervous,” said Rebecca Harper, president of the San Bernardino Teachers Association.

March 15 is the annual legal deadline for school districts to send preliminary layoff notices, or pink slips, to teachers and other certificated school staff in California.

More than 16,000 teachers lost their jobs last year, and roughly 10,000 classified school employees have met the same fate over the past couple budget cycles, according to the California Department of Education.

Last year, teachers’ jobs were saved in the district using one-time federal stimulus funding, said Harper.

This time, the situation does not look as hopeful for the 191 teachers among the nearly 22,000 statewide, who received preliminary pink slips by the deadline.

“I wish I could be optimistic and say everyone will keep their jobs, but this year I don’t have the confidence to be optimistic,” she said.

Around 230 classified employees, including custodians, cafeteria workers and instructional aids, are facing layoffs.

Their fate, in part, rests in negotiations currently taking place between the district and California School Employees Association, Chapter 183, which represents the classified employees.

According to Danny Tillman, president of the school board, teachers want to take a pay cut rather than have five fewer days in the school year, because they don’t want to impact students’ instructional time.

So that means the only option classified employees have is to reduce their pay equivalent to working five fewer days.

“It is all under negotiation,” he said. “If the union accepts the five less work days, the layoffs would not be as substantial.”

Chapter 183 representatives were not available for comment.

During school district budget meetings earlier this year, the cuts proposed to deal with the deficit ranged from shortening the school year by five days, increasing the class size for kindergarten to third grade to 25 to 1 and getting rid of smaller learning communities at the high schools, said Tillman.

Adult education and the program for pregnant teens in the district could also be impacted.

The deadline to finalize teacher layoffs is May 15.

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