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Layoff Notices Due At School
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It was something they had hoped to avoid ... but Escalon Unified School District board members have had to make the decision to issues layoff notices to 10 teachers in the district.

Even if it doesn't come to actual job losses come May, the teachers have to be notified - by law - by March 15 if there is the possibility they will not have a job for the next school year.

Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Dave Mantooth was scheduled to take the proposal to the school board for consideration at a special meeting Tuesday night, March 10, after The Times went to press. Mantooth met with the affected teachers on Monday, with a representative from the Escalon Unified Teachers Association also present.

In addition to the 10 actual layoff notices proposed, Mantooth said three other teachers face the possibility of being reassigned to other areas.

Mantooth said in light of continuing state budget problems, some of which have been passed down to local schools, the district really had no other choice but to proceed with the notices.

"Our hope is that by the time the school year starts (in the fall) we will employ them all," Mantooth said.

But that will depend on several factors; state funding, student enrollment and how much savings the district has been able to realize through budget cuts already made in the current school year.

There are some vacant positions that won't be filled, which will help reduce the budget deficit, but the district has been asked to cut between $700,000 and $800,000 midyear, to help make up the shortfall in funding that didn't arrive or is late in arriving from the state.

"The cost for teachers and benefits makes up 55 percent of our budget," Mantooth pointed out.

The district's budget committee, he added, has been careful to work for across the board budget cuts, though, not focusing solely on one area to trim spending.

"The board agreed this year they are not looking at cuts in art, music, vocational ed or special education," Mantooth added. "With special education, there are just too many requirements, and if we start reducing staff in the other areas, we'll basically be eliminating programs."

The layoff notices are a 'heads up' to the affected teachers that their jobs may not be there next year. Final, official word on whether they have a position in the district will come by May 14.

The situation is different for classified employees; they require only a 45-day notice if their job is a victim of budget cuts.

"We're not happy to do this," Mantooth admitted of going to the board with the recommendation for layoff notices. "It's a down time for the district."

The district has some flexibility in class size reduction, Title I funding and economic impact funds, he said, that may help save some of the jobs on the chopping block. Not filling posts and juggling a few others may also help.

"If current conditions hold, and with that flex, we hope we can retain most of our staff," Mantooth said.