Madera Unified issues notices to cut 36 positions

Officials say it's likely the layoff notices will be rescinded.

The Fresno BeeMarch 14, 2013 

More than three dozen Madera Unified teachers have received layoff notices, notifying them that their jobs could be in jeopardy for the upcoming school year.

Today is the state-mandated deadline for notifying teachers about potential layoffs.

Madera's pink slips appear to be the only ones issued by a major school district in the central San Joaquin Valley, and officials said it's likely the layoff notices will be rescinded.

Madera needs to cut 36.5 full-time equivalent jobs. The district has 929 full-time teachers.

The Madera teachers who received notices work in federally funded special programs, which face a 9% cut because of the federal budget deadlock that led to sequestration.

The district expects to get $9.5 million for such programs in 2013-14, said Teri Bradshaw, director of fiscal services. Madera Unified has total revenues of $140.6 million, total expenditures of $144 million and a $27.3 million reserve, she said.

The pink slips were a precautionary measure, Bradshaw said, and no regular classroom teachers received notices.

"These are teachers on special assignments, positions that are supplementary to the core education," she said.

Last year, Madera issued notices to more than 55 teachers, and all were rescinded before the start of the school year.

This year, school site councils will meet to approve how they want funds spent in 2013-14, Bradshaw said.

"Then we'll know how many of these will be hired back," she said. "There's a high likelihood that a lot of these positions will be brought back."

For several years, Valley school districts have had to tighten budgets and dip into reserves, but the approval of Proposition 30 in November helped many avoid layoff notices this year, said Fresno County Schools Superintendent Larry Powell.

Gov. Jerry Brown's education funding proposal to give schools more money to serve low-income children and students with limited English also should benefit many Valley school districts, he said.

"Things look pretty positive," Powell said.

At Fresno Unified, officials have avoided layoffs in recent years, and there are plans to hire as many 50 new teachers for the 2013-14 school year. Chief Financial Officer Ruth Quinto said conservative budgeting has provided financial stability for the district from year to year.

Kings Canyon Unified School District expects to hire about 20 teachers this year to replace teachers who are retiring and to handle a growth in enrollment, Superintendent Juan Garza said.

Central, Sanger and Visalia districts said they did not send out layoff notices.

Sierra Unified School District avoided layoffs this year by being conservative last year, said Superintendent Melissa Ireland.

"For the first time in several years, we're not laying off staff," Ireland said. Last year, in anticipation of Prop. 30 not passing, the district laid off staff, she said. Teachers and classified and administrative staffs also agreed to salary concessions, she said.

The district is not out of the woods though, Ireland said.

The governor's budget proposal would hurt the foothill district, possibly cutting funds by as much as $300 per student, she said.

The potential of a 9% cut in federal funding for categorical programs also would hurt, she said: "It may be that we have to cut support staff, but it would not be teachers." Ireland said the law requires that nonteaching staff must be notified 60 days prior to a job loss.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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