S.F. school board to consider teacher layoffs after tumultuous meeting

Tuesday’s session was abruptly canceled, talks to resume Thursday

San Francisco Unified School District officials said Thursday morning the Board of Education will vote on whether to proceed with layoffs for teachers and other staff during a special meeting next week.

The board was initially set to vote on layoffs for hundreds of staff members at this week’s meeting, which took place on Tuesday, but an error that resulted in the meeting agenda not being posted directly to the district’s website forced the board to abruptly end the meeting.

Failure to post an agenda for a public meeting within a certain timeframe could be considered a violation of the Brown Act, the state law that ensures government transparency.

Superintendent Vincent Matthews has apologized for the snafu and said additional safeguards were being put in place to ensure agendas are promptly posted to the district website.

The board opted to continue the agenda at a special meeting on Thursday at 3 p.m. But according to district officials, the layoffs will now be discussed at another special meeting this coming Tuesday at 5 p.m.

The layoff measures are up for vote as the district is currently facing a projected $125 million budget shortfall.

District officials said the district was already facing a structural deficit before the COVID-19 pandemic began, with expenses exceeding its revenue. In addition, the district has cited declining student enrollment and rising costs linked to staff pensions as reasons for the budget woes.

“Student enrollment has declined in SFUSD and across the state in the past several years and overall expenses are growing much faster than our revenue sources. The majority of our staff work directly with students in schools. Given the size of our structural deficit it is inevitable that there will need to be layoffs to those who work with students in addition to those who are in supporting roles outside of classrooms,” Matthews said in a statement Thursday.

“Many of the employees who will receive preliminary layoff notices have worked tirelessly for SFUSD’s students and families, before and throughout this pandemic. At the end of the day, I know from personal experience that this whole process leaves us weary and deflated. This is an added stressor in the midst of what is already a stressful time for our staff and school communities,” he said.

Back in December, as instructed by the California Department of Education, the board adopted a multi-year budget balancing plan, which includes significant cuts to staffing.

Then late last month, more than 400 teachers, paraeducators, social workers, family liaisons, and community school coordinators, among other staff, were notified about the possible layoffs. Among those notified, more than 300 are full-time employees.

Under the series of measures up for vote at this coming Tuesday’s special meeting, the board will consider cutting as much as 3 percent of credentialed staff, 3 percent of classified staff, and 31 percent of management positions.

If the board ultimately approves the layoffs, once finalized, preliminary layoff notices would be sent to impacted staff around March 15. Official layoff notices would then be sent to staff no later than May 15 for teachers and June 30 for administrative staff.

However, according to district officials, the total number of employees laid off could still be decreased based on analysis from a consultant.

The labor union United Educators of San Francisco, which represents a majority of staff members impacted by the possible layoffs, has denounced the plan.

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