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School board approves layoff notices

Twenty five teachers in Roseville Joint Union High School District may lose their jobs
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Stephanie Soehn couldn’t wrap her mind around the difference between DNA and another type of molecule called RNA. The Antelope High School student had missed class for a doctor’s appointment only to hear from her science teacher she had a test the next day. Her teacher handed her notes and told her to “Google it,” but Soehn still failed to comprehend the lesson. Then Soehn turned to teacher Chaudra Wood. “I go to Ms. Wood freaking out for the test tomorrow,” Soehn said. “I said ‘Can you help me?’ She laughed and said, ‘I’m a math teacher. But what do you need?’” Wood helped Soehn grasp the complicated material and the student got an A on the exam. “That’s when I knew she was one of the best teachers on campus,” Soehn, 15, said. But Wood may not be there next year. On May 4, the Roseville Joint Union High School District voted unanimously to approve the layoff notices of 25 teachers. Wood, a teacher with 10 years experience, received a pink slip in March. The board’s decision means she will be out of a job unless the district rescinds the notices before the upcoming school year. “It is truly very personally distressing to have to approve layoff notices,” said board member Scott Huber. “Our goal is finding a way to rescind the notices and keep the district financially viable because we have to balance our budget for the next three years.” The district currently faces a $3.9 million budget deficit. Roughly 83 percent of the district’s general fund budget — of about $72 million — covers salaries and benefits. “That’s the lion’s share of our expenses,” Huber said. “I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just the reality of it.” The layoffs will save the district $1.3 million, said Ronald Severson, assistant superintendent of personnel services. Huber said the district dipped into its reserves to prevent some layoffs. California state law requires the district maintain a general fund budget reserve of no less than 3 percent of total expenditures. Board policy requires an additional 2 percent reserve. “The district will face financial struggles in the future and the only way to cover that is to have viable reserves in times of economic uncertainty,” Huber said. The reality of the district’s budget crisis doesn’t make the layoff news any easier for the teachers potentially out of a job, nor for the students they impact. Soehn, now a sophomore, had Wood for geometry and algebra 2. When she heard her favorite teacher might be laid off, she decided to speak out during public comment at a school board meeting in April. She wrote a speech honoring Wood. “It’s so obvious that Ms. Wood is really good,” Soehn said. “A lot of my friends were really disappointed.” State law requires that teachers with the least seniority in a district be issued layoff notices first, which board members explained to Soehn. “Wow, I was mad,” she said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Wood, 32, taught math for eight years at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento before transferring to Roseville two years ago to be closer to her home in Antelope and spend more time with her two young daughters. “I don’t feel like a new teacher,” Wood said. “It’s hard to know I’m really experienced in what I do … I think experience should count for something.” Her husband Corey, also a teacher at Antelope High School, kept his job — but the couple can’t survive financially on one teacher’s salary, she said. Wood will patch together tutoring jobs. She won’t take another teaching job because she doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to be rehired in Roseville. “I’ll definitely miss (teaching),” Wood said. “I’ve never had a job doing something else.” Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Roseville Joint Union High School District 5 high schools, 3 alternative schools 9,853 students (2009/2010 school year) Budget: $72 million (2009/2010) Salaries and benefits: 83 percent of general fund budget 25 final layoff notices issued Source: Roseville Joint Union High School District