Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Anaheim Union High School District Layoffs Continue

By b0oua May 2, 2024
News

In the Anaheim Union High School District, layoff hearings will continue for an additional five days in May, following a vote by school board trustees earlier this year to terminate more than one hundred instructors in response to declining enrollment.

The cutbacks occur in the context of declining enrollment at public schools throughout Orange County and the nation, the expiration of federal COVID-19 relief funds for schools, and a budget shortfall in California.

An administrative law judge heard a three-day petition from district officials at Katella High School last week in an effort to exempt some teachers from the seniority-based teacher termination policy in California. District officials claim that this exemption could have repercussions for a variety of programs, including AP.

On May 2, 14, 20, 22, and 23, the hearings are anticipated to continue, according to the publication California Educator, which is published by the California Teacher Association.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Arielle Aguirre, who has taught English at Anaheim High School for the past six years, stated that the hearings have been disheartening and disorganized, with district personnel appearing unprepared.

“The mere act of listening to the various justifications provided for terminating or retaining teachers, without conducting thorough investigations, is extremely disheartening for the years of experience that teachers must endure in order to be reduced to a name on a document,” she continued.

“At the end of the day, nothing that we’ve all worked for means anything,” Aguirre continued. “That is the feeling of being irrelevant. “The community is irrelevant.”

In a Tuesday phone interview, district superintendent Michael Matsuda stated that the purpose of the hearings is to ensure that all parties are afforded due process when determining who may be laid off.

“Everything becomes extremely complicated, like a large jigsaw puzzle, and human error is unavoidable; that is why hearings are held: to ensure and minimize any sort of human error when it comes to the lives and careers of individuals.”

A teacher who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of job termination concurred with Aguirre’s remarks, expressing concerns regarding household responsibilities and financial obligations. The teacher further expressed the perception that district personnel are selectively selecting individuals to remain.

In March, the layoffs were unanimously approved by the publicly elected trustees of the school board, following the enrollment decline of more than 3,500 pupils since the 2017-18 academic year and projections that this trend will continue over the next couple of years.

As a result of this decision, 119 teachers would be laid off at the conclusion of the academic year, and an additional 253 teachers were informed that they might be among those who are laid off.

As of now, according to Matsuda, there are 62 open positions; however, this figure is subject to change as a result of retirements.

The Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association, the local teachers union, has been organizing demonstrations at district schools this week in opposition to the district’s class size increases and teacher layoffs.

The union’s president, Geoff Morganstern, declined to comment in response to a request on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 3,764 individuals had signed an online petition to protest the termination.

The Consequences of Skipping Last In, First Out

State policy mandates that teacher redundancies in California adhere to the “Last In, First Out” principle, which aims to retain educators on the basis of seniority in the event of workforce reductions.

In order to comply with equal protection laws or when a teacher possesses specialized training to instruct a course that is not available to more senior teachers, district officials may abstain from laying off “skip” teachers.

Officials of the Anaheim Union have convened the hearings in an effort to safeguard programs such as ethnic studies, community school instructors, AP courses, Dual Language Immersion, and the International Baccalaureate program by seeking to exempt certain educators from the cutbacks.

Safeguarding specific educators is not the objective. “Program protection is the true objective,” Matsuda explained.

Aguirre stated that in order to prevent animosity and competition among educators, redundancies should be determined by seniority. Furthermore, she emphasized that while any teacher is capable of being trained to teach AP level courses, she herself is qualified to instruct such programs.

“At their school sites, not all teachers are afforded the opportunity to instruct the courses in which they have received their formal training.” “There are situations in which these positions are given to more junior teachers rather than those who have been with the institution for years,” Aguirre explained.

The effects of school district seniority-based termination policies are a source of concern that extends beyond the city limits of Anaheim.

Educators for Excellence, a teacher advocacy organization, and TNTP, a national nonprofit, found in a 2023 report that seniority-based reductions disproportionately affect teachers of color.

According to the report, the percentage of teachers of color in the teaching workforce has increased from 13% in 1988 to 20% at present. “In the event of layoffs, teachers of color are more likely to experience job insecurity due to their higher proportion of inexperienced teachers.”

The report indicates that teachers of color are approximately 50% more likely than white teachers nationwide to be in their first or second year of teaching.

State statistics indicate that approximately 70% of the 29,000 pupils in the Anaheim Union High School District are Latino.

For the 2022-23 academic year, data on the ethnic backgrounds of teachers were not accessible; however, during the 2018-2019 academic year, 793 out of the nearly 1,200 teachers were classified as white.

In AUHSD, hearings disrupt instruction.
A parent of a senior at Anaheim High School, Germaine Neumann-Chau, stated that the hearings from last week have caused disruptions to the academic year as teachers prepare to appear before the judge in advance of finals.

She stated that her son has an AP exam the following week, but his teacher was unable to assist him and his companions in preparing because she had to attend the hearings.

“They are in a critical juncture at this moment,” Neumann-Chau stated. “It is occurring in each and every school in our district, and almost certainly every student in the district is affected.”

“Education of our students is not a priority for the school district.”

She stated that instead of wasting money on special contracts, district officials would invest in and support programs like AP if they genuinely cared about them.

Tuesday, Sophia Hall, a junior at Anaheim High School, expressed concern over the amount of time her instructors are absent due to the impending finals and the possibility that layoffs will result in larger class sizes, during a phone conversation.

“Our teachers need to be able to work with some students frequently on an individual basis, which is difficult enough with the current class sizes,” she explained.

According to Aguirre, the English instructor, the district is incurring expenses due to the use of substitute teachers to cover courses, while other instructors are compelled to fill in for their colleagues, which hinders their ability to plan and grade assignments.

“Education becomes increasingly challenging for students, particularly near the end of the academic year,” she explained. “Some of us will spend three days attending the hearings during finals week.”

Superintendent Matsuda stated that the administrative law judge selected the hearing dates and that the district had no influence over them; furthermore, the district was unaware of the location or time of the hearings.

“We would have preferred for this to be less disruptive in light of the approaching graduation,” he said. “It places an enormous coverage burden on our substitutes.”

Hosam Elattar is a cohort member of Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative, and a reporter for Voice of OC. For more information, please email him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or follow him on Twitter at @ElattarHosam.

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