Saturday, September 13, 2014

My RIF Defense Part II: California Education Code 44955

Sadly, as Long Beach Unified School District, the 3rd largest District in the State of California, is situated in Los Angeles County, I taught in one of the areas where reductions in the teacher workforce were the most affected. As shown in dark blue on our California map below, Los Angeles County suffered a tremendous hit, with a "weighted average of 15 percent" reduction in teachers according to the California State Legislature's Office.
Los Angeles County's 15% Teacher Reduction 
As I was laid off during the first phase of Long Beach Unified School District Layoffs during the summer of 2010, there were bound to be mistakes and I don't blame LBUSD for laying off their teachers as it was inevitable due to State budget reductions. But, the criteria used in their layoff process causes me to debate whether I should have been laid off at all!

Part 2: California Education Code Defense

Section 44955 of California State Education Code (d) (1) states, "A school district may deviate from terminating a certificated employee in order of seniority for either of the following reasons: The district demonstrates a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study and that the certificated employee has special training and experience necessary to teach that course of study or to provide those services, which others with more seniority do not possess.

My services were greatly needed as a Kindergarten teacher on Catalina Island because 75% of the Kindergartners were learning the English language. Many of these immigrant children came to school for the first time that year without Preschool preparation as there was no Head Start Program on our Island! Furthermore, they could not afford the local Preschool as most of these students were from low income families.

My ability to speak the Spanish language, holding a California State Bilingual Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development (BCLAD) Credential, coupled with 9 years experience teaching the Structured English Immersion (SEI) Program to second language learners appeared to be the perfect fit. Taking things one step further was the fact that my Master's Degree Thesis was based on "A Comparative Study of First Grade Structured English Immersion Students and English Only Students", using results from the same Open Court Curriculum used by Long Beach Unified School District!

Throughout the LBUSD 2010 Hearings, my husband and I attempted to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I had special training and experience which others with more seniority do not possess. Besides a copy of my Master's Thesis, we presented LBUSD evidence demonstrating my 20 Kindergartners' Reading Benchmark Levels and Mathematics Test Scores were well above LBUSD District levels in both subjects!

By the conclusion of the 2010 Hearings, we had clearly proven I had special training and experience that others with more seniority do not possess. Yet, the judge laid me off like everyone else solely based on my position on LBUSD's Seniority List, contrary to California State Education Code 44955. I promptly appealed this decision based on the same Code (above), but the appeal was denied and LBUSD's attorneys wouldn't even hear my appeal. 

The following 2010-2011 school year, a LBUSD teacher with more seniority took my place in my Catalina Island Kindergarten classroom. I discovered a former English and Physical Education Middle School/5th Grade teacher hired one year before me with no knowledge of the Spanish language nor experience teaching lower Elementary English Language Learners had been assigned to my Kindergarten classroom! Apparently, Human Resources chose her because she was "next in line" for a teaching assignment without regard for her former teaching experience and in clear violation of State Education Code 44955!

Rather than choosing to live among the Island community as I did, this displaced teacher commuted to and from the Island every day, affecting both her classroom environment and parental repore. As you can imagine, the ending results were disastrous, as this former upper grade teacher had no idea how to create a classroom environment conducive to the teaching of  young minds nor the patience to do so! Although she clearly had seniority over me, she did not possess the special training and experience necessary to teach My Catalina Island Kindergartners! (More to follow in my next post.)

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