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Pink Slips Schools Propose Staff Layoffs
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Constrained by falling enrollment and dwindling state funding, Riverbank is in the same boat as most other school districts in Stanislaus County and looking to staff reductions to bring expenses within its budget.

In a formal resolution adopted at the March 9 meeting, Riverbank Unified School District trustees authorized sending layoff notices to 15 out of its 136 certificated staff of teachers, counselors and librarians, plus one more notice to one of its 10 certificated managers.

"We're leaving one assistant superintendent position vacant," Riverbank Superintendent of Schools Ken Geisick explained of the managerial position.

Ten of the targeted positions are at the elementary school level. Among the high school teachers, two math teachers, one English, one science and one social science teacher face possible dismissal.

"The state requires us to trim our costs by between $500,000 and $1 million or about $242 per student," said Geisick.

These are preliminary notices of intention to dismiss, that teachers must receive by March 15 if there is a possibility they may not be employed the following school year. The notices must be confirmed with a formal "pink slip" in May if the district decides to go ahead with dismissal.

"We've done this every year for several years now," said Geisick. "Last year, for instance, we notified 12 teachers they would be dismissed but finally laid off only four teachers."

Teachers considering early retirement are offered a short period of taking that opportunity at this time of year in the hope retirements will save the jobs of younger teachers.

Certificated staff must be let go by order of seniority but have "bumping rights" and may have the multiple qualifications to shift, for instance, from counseling to classroom.

Districts may also deviate from order of seniority while imposing layoffs where the district needs to retain employees with special training, experience or credentials.

Some Stanislaus County districts are in much worse shape by comparison. Modesto City Schools, for example, has issued preliminary dismissal notices to 517 out of its 1,657 certificated staff or 31.2 percent and Denair sent warning letters to 53 of its 98 certificated staff or 54.1 percent.

Other districts are considering different methods of bringing their expenses within budget. Ceres has proposed an 8.5 percent cut in pay for certificated staff.

"With fewer teachers, class sizes will increase," said Riverbank Teachers Association president Richard Beatty of the proposed layoffs. "Our enrollment has come down over the last five years but not from last year to this."

Beatty said teacher-district negotiations would resume in April.

"We plan to attend board meetings en masse, hold events before and after school and try and get the board to rescind some of these layoffs," he added.