Last night my school board (Lodi Unified School District)
was set to vote on cutting voted to cut 390 teacher jobs in order to save the district from bankruptcy. I would guess that’s about 20% of the teachers in the district.
Feelings ran high as hundreds of parents, students and district employees packed the auditorium at Ronald E. McNair High School. Over a two hour period, dozens addressed the board with pleas to save both specific programs and the integrity of their schools. There was a sense of hope – initially – which left as the auditorium emptied and only the board and a few dozen die-hards remained, waiting for the inevitable.
My daughter Alexis and I gave it up at 11:50, leaving as the board debated the legal effects of adding additional district jobs and administrative jobs to the list.
But by that time they had already made their intentions clear…each board member pleading with the public to understand their position and their two choices: make the cuts or have the district go bankrupt and the state take over operations.
Neither was a choice anyone wanted to hear.
The only hope is now pinned on what happens over the few months. On March 15 pink slips WILL go out to the 390 teachers…and possibly more from other fields. Between March and May 15 the board may be able to find alternative ways to save both money and jobs. (Some strong possibilities, if they are willing to be bold, are changing the school year calendar and working with the union for furloughs.)
I’m not sure where I am on the seniority list and won’t know until this Friday at the earliest. I know I will be getting a pink slip, as will an estimated 75% of the teachers at McNair. We have the youngest, brightest, and newest staff members in the district. I know students cried last night in their speeches, hugging each other for support, as they held out hope for their futures. I know it will not be pretty and I also know that the board, faced with the impossible, made the only choice they could at the time. And I hold this out for both students and staff – keep hope alive.