52 teachers in Los Altos could lose jobs

Pink slips at Los Altos School District sap morale, draw criticism

A total of 52 teachers in the Los Altos School District have been notified that they may lose their jobs -- an announcement that has drawn criticism, impacted teacher morale and may ultimately lead to unnecessary loss of staff, district officials said.

In an effort to make up for major cuts at the state and federal level, Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of the district, said that 42 full-time equivalent positions would need to be cut in a "worst case scenario," which assumes many things -- including that many of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed cuts and taxes will not be approved and that a proposed Los Altos parcel tax will also fail.

The pink slips were issued on March 14. According to state law, school districts are required to give notice by March 15 to employees who may be laid off at the end of the school year.

Kenyon acknowledged that morale has been dampened and that valued teachers in the district may find new work before the cuts become final on May 15. But, because state law requires the notices to be sent out, and because of the current financial straits California is experiencing, there was really no way around it, he said.

"We've got a significant cut in funding for next year," Kenyon said. "We've lost over $4 million -- potentially $5 million -- from the state."

In the previous year, Kenyon said, federal stimulus money helped plug the "significant funding hole" his district is facing. This year, however, the Los Altos School District, which draws 25 percent of its student body from Mountain View, is running out of options.

Without the passage of Measure E -- the proposed parcel tax up for a vote in May -- Kenyon said his district has no other choice but to begin cutting teachers.

Ron Haley, a Los Altos Hills resident and vocal critic of how the district spends its money, said he thinks the district could easily avoid the layoffs without the approval of the parcel tax.

"I think it's bad if any of the teachers are cut," Haley said, "and I don't see a reason why any of them should be cut."

Haley is currently leading a campaign against Measure E -- which proponents say would raise about $2.3 million for the Los Altos School District over six years with an annual $193 per-parcel tax.

He opposes the parcel tax for many of the same reasons he believes the layoff notices are unnecessary.

"One of the reasons they've gotten in this predicament is because of what they are paying their teachers," he said, noting that the average teacher in the Los Altos School District takes in an annual salary and benefits package of $99,000. Haley argues that all the positions on the chopping block could be saved if teachers in the district were willing to tighten their belts a bit.

Jim Grijalva, president of the Los Altos School District's teachers union doesn't see it that way.

"He is entitled to his opinion," Grijalva said, referring to Haley, "but it is a pretty drastic one. The type of cuts we'd have to agree to would be to give up every last health benefit that we have."

To say that Los Altos teachers are overpaid, would be "like saying every teacher in the state is overpaid," the union president said. The real reason that the district is considering such drastic cuts, according to Grijalva, is the weakened economy. "We have been on a decline for a couple years now. It is just decimating schools everywhere."

Kenyon verified Haley's figures: teachers in the district do take home nearly $100,000 in overall compensation on average, he said -- about $78,000 in salary and $21,000 in other benefits. However, he added, the average teacher in the district has 15 years of experience.

"We have great teachers," Kenyon said, "There are many veteran teachers. It does create stress on the budget, but we value quality teachers and we want to retain them as long as they're performing at a high level."

The district is exploring a structured system for furlough days and has been working on making appropriate cuts to the benefits packages of administrators, teachers and other school employees, Kenyon said. But that isn't going to be enough to save all the positions.

Grijalva doesn't anticipate that the "worst case scenario" will come to pass, but he is bracing for at least 25 teachers to ultimately lose their jobs in May. About 14 of those teachers are temporary teachers, he said -- hired on a yearly contractual basis.

The majority of the cuts are likely to fall in non-academic and non-core areas, such as physical education and the arts, Grijalva said. However, if the worst case does come to pass, some core subject instructors will likely be cut at the junior high level, which will result in a class size increase.

In the meantime, Grijalva said, the teachers who have been noticed are likely to look for new work, which could have deleterious results. Not only could these teachers find new jobs and leave the district, he said, but the damage to morale, along with the time-consuming nature of searching for work, is likely to keep instructors from performing at the top of their game.

"Their hours, when they get home, when they could be working on lesson plans, are going to be dedicated to looking for work," Grijalva said. "They've got to look out for themselves."

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Posted by Get the facts right
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

I encourage people who read this to get the correct figures for the salary and benefits of Los Altos teachers. I'm not sure who got the data wrong (interviewees or reporter) but those are not the actual numbers:

Web Link

Go to Ed Data, type in the district and then pull up the report for teacher salaries. The average salary last year was $74,400, and the maximum health benefit was $16,800. Not everyone takes family coverage, so the average is actually less.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

This would be worth checking: has this EVER been more than an empty threat, year after year to lay the poor teachers off?
I know education funding is extremely unfair in this state, that's ot what I am addressing and I know some poor areas may lay staff off, but to my knowledge each time there is a "crisis" and threats are made in a top quality school district - like Los Altos, someone or something or some fundraising or some school bond comes to the rescue and everything is fine. Just asking.
The real crime, oft forgotten, is the fraud and embezzlement that has taken place in school districts like Oakland, leaving honest teachers, students, parents high and dry.
I think there should be very heavy auditing and examination of school district money in EACH district - the situation of constant shortages doesn't mesh with the vision of high-end Apple laptops seen in recent press photos (Los Altos 5th grade, as I recall, for their Math program)

Like this comment
Posted by Carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

Unwilling to tackle the root of the State budget deficit problem, as the majority of taxpayers know is the bankrupt CALPERS; our senile governor is willing to sacrifice the most needy and feeble of the population by cutting or eliminating services they depend on, willing to sacrifice the future of California by cutting the budget for our Public Education System one more time, so that only few will have access to education, at the same time he also defeats the principle that created the 2 Public university Systems of California.

His gutless approach in "solving" the budget is asinine, he set it up just perfect for the brain dead. By placing it in the ballot, but not giving the option for the taxpayers to really do something to fix once an for all the gargantuan liability that CALPERS represent to the State finances. Instead his "solutions" are either, keep taxing ourselves or make draconian cuts in State Services, obviously his main objective is to generate money to cover for the spiraling out of control costs of CALPERS.

For Mr. Brown loyalty to the Public Employees Unions is his number one priority, the other issues just take a back seat. Do you think Mother Theresa would be proud of her disciple.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

How many administrators got the pink slip?

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

"How many administrators got the pink slip?" - I'd like to ask the same question! I also would like to ask, if any essay readers or TA are going to be laid off?
All school district have huge amount of money. Most middle and high schools have 30 and up ballast employees (all those secretaries, essay readers, TA, etc.) Lay off them and have more money for teachers!

Like this comment
Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Our country's most valuable resource, education, squandered! I guess we need some more consultants to study whether someone can build a fence on their property or cut down a dead tree.

Like this comment
Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm

If California converted all people on death row (>700) to permanent imprisonment without parole, the state would save $1billion dollars over 5 years.

That money could far better be spent on schools and other services so needed in the State.

Let's stop incarcerating people for petty crimes and look at restorative justice models (google it folks).

In Marin County where they have youth courts they have cut recidivism from 44% to 4% amongst youth. It costs $173k per child to have them in Juvenile hall per year.

Let's stop cutting off the next generation and start rethinking what it really means to be tough on crime: loss of education for this young generation, lack of social services, a non-caring functional government.

For more information, go to , go to your school board, talk to your governor, your state senator and state assemblyperson.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe Taxpayer
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 28, 2011 at 9:23 pm

>>>How many administrators got the pink slip?


1) These people have added property tax special assessment.

2) They have the LAEF (Los Altos Ecucaational Foundation) strongarming resident to pay more. And as I recall this year they demanded $800.00.

3) They pay in some cases two teacher in a classroom and sell it as part time teaching with FULL TIME BENNIFITS.

4) The get involved in ridiculous lawsuits and the expense of the children.

This little club suck up the tax moeny needs to be broken up at the adminstration level, now.

Joe Taxpayer

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2011 at 5:27 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Alice Smith, Death Row would be cleared out within five years if only attorneys were required to account for their billings. A death penalty case appeal now is a lifetime sinecure. And there are still too many administrative positions.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2011 at 10:48 am

> "How many administrators got the pink slip?

"Administrators" (including all HQ staff, and school principals) generally consume about 6% of any educational organization's budget. The number will go up, or down, depending on which job titles are actually included in the determination.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

Los Altos district pilots technology-based math program, Khan Academy:
Web Link

Let's hope that in the future, schools will shift to more "digital" education tools/teaching methods, and we won't need as many teachers as in the past.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Bob, 6% or 60%, any layoff that does not strike teachers & staff equally is unfair.

Like this comment
Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Mr. Wallis's comments are irrelevant to the issue in play. Death penalty cases cost much more, and of course there are more attorneys' fees....the issue is state killing of a person, not to be taken lightly, cynically. The point is: there is a specific amount of taxes available for many functions in a civilized society: education, healthcare, housing... and death penalty is far lower down the list of uses of our limited tax monies.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2011 at 8:21 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Alice, it was you, not I, who brought the death penalty into this discussion. All I ask is that attorneys account for their time and that they proceed in timely fashion. Right now the judiciary is in league with attorneys to delay, delay, delay.
The State killing of a person is not to be taken lightly, but the State taking a person's irretrievable time on the other hand is accepted. Also, the State's taking a life is routine for police shootings. People on death row continue to commit crimes and continue to enjoy life with the bet of health care. Some crimes cry out for the death penalty. Given my druthers, I would accept the death penalty for every first degree murder conviction, and I would see the sentence executed within two years. Would there be mistakes? Possibly, but then what the hell, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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