The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board approved the layoffs of nearly 200 teachers, librarians, counselors and other certified employees Tuesday night.
The reduction is part of the district's effort to reconcile a $17 million budget deficit caused by a decrease in student enrollment and continuous cuts in state funding.
Board President Adelita Grijalva, Clerk Kristel Ann Foster and Member Mark Stegeman supported the reduction in force of 187 employees.
Board members Michael Hicks and Cam Juarez opposed it.
"I've been having heartburn over this stuff and our budgeting," Hicks said. "I have issues with how we came to this list, and I won't be able to support it."
Juarez added: "It's a difficult thing we need to do. We need to balance the budget but need to re-evaluate how we do that with our teachers. Our morale is to a point where it's getting difficult to sleep at night."
While Stegeman agreed that it is a painful process, he told his colleagues that the layoffs were dictated by decisions they have made in terms of school closures and changes to funding formulas.
Catherine Paredes, a sixth-grade math teacher at Doolen Middle School, voiced her disappointment in being placed on the layoff list after 15 years of "faithful service."
She noted that Doolen is a receiving school for students from one of the closing campuses and that the school is using four long-term substitute teachers, yet she is losing her job.
"I feel I have been treated with disrespect," said Paredes. "Moreover, I have not been treated as a professional."
The bulk of the layoff list is made up of teachers who were selected based on a reduction-in-force procedure. The procedure requires that principals first decide whether a reduction can be made through attrition. If not, the principal looks at whether a teacher is appropriately certified and highly qualified. The next step is a performance evaluation, which gives points for such things as experience and specialized training; and deducts points for disciplinary issues. The teachers who score the lowest receive pink slips.
Outside of teachers, librarians and counselors, other positions that were cut include literacy and math specialists, interventionists and instructional coaches.
In all, 68 schools are affected.
TUSD anticipates that the number of affected employees will decrease as they have the opportunity to apply and compete for vacant positions. As of Tuesday night, 20 employees on the list had already secured other positions within the district.
Currently there are 158 certified positions that have been approved for advertisement.
Catalina Magnet High School teacher Lysa Nabours, who was not on the list, pressed the district to examine what has become a common practice of layoffs at the end of each school year.
"Flip the process and hold a job fair for displaced teachers before opening up to external applicants," an emotional Nabours urged. "Why put so many people through this horrible trauma? Have we become so callous that we only care about the bottom line? How is this going to help our students?"
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"Why put so many people through this horrible trauma? Have we become so callous that we only care about the bottom line? How is this going to help our students?"
Catalina Magnet High teacher
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea