Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/10/2012 09:02:22 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – Final layoff notices for 224 teachers were approved at an emergency school board meeting Thursday so the notices could be sent before a state-mandated deadline.

The decision, made by the board of the San Bernardino City Unified School District at a sparsely attended meeting, was an expected consequence of earlier budget decisions.

The number is lower than the record 251 preliminary layoffs approved March 7, and it’s significantly higher than the number of people they think will actually be forced out.

But a combination of budget constraints and legal requirements mean teachers need to be given the notice now, said board member Judi Penman.

“I know it’s painful, and it’s painful for us, too, because we’re the bad guys,” Penman said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to retain everyone, or ask everyone to come back, but we don’t know that yet. …The bottom line is we have to follow the law.”

State law requires districts to notify teachers no later than May 14 in most cases – a day before the board’s next scheduled meeting Tuesday – if being laid off is a possibility.

Laid-off teacher Malissa Esquibel said district administrators should have worked faster to account for teachers who accepted early retirement offers, which is expected to significantly reduce the number of layoffs.

“Once they lay people off, we lose our school site, and you get seniority based on your school site,” Esquibel said. “They don’t put us on track where we used to be – they say they’re going to try but they can’t guarantee it.”

Besides extra stress, that means a greater chance of being laid off in the future, said Esquibel, a fourth-grade teacher at Muscoy Elementary who has received a preliminary layoff notice each of her four years of teaching and a final layoff twice.

Sending large numbers of “final” layoff notices and then rehiring those people before the start of the year has become an annual ritual in recent years, as districts statewide deal with tight funds and an uncertain budget based largely on numbers the Governor’s Office doesn’t release until layoff notification deadlines have passed.

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