The South Pasadena Unified School District is going to rescind a portion of a planned teacher layoff as a result of an enrollment boost, officials said this week.

The district was forced to lay off one part-time and one full-time teacher without seniority recently because of a projected decline in enrollment. However, those projections, which School Board members said could improve, have, in fact, improved.

Melissa Cheng, a part-time Chinese language teacher that was notified that her position was being eliminated, received an email from the district Monday indicating 40 percent of her 60 percent layoff has been reinstated. Cheng’s part-time position is considered 60 percent of a full-time teacher.

“I am pleased (to) inform you that enrollment in the Chinese classes indicate that we will need two more Chinese classes for the 2018-2019 school year,” according to the email dated June 4 from Karen Reed, School District assistant superintendent, human resources. The email was addressed to Cheng. “As such, I was able to rescind 40 (percent) of your 60 (percent) layoff. …I am happy that we are able to bring you back to the teaching staff at SPHS.”

Initially the call for layoffs prompted a small protest at the School Board meeting on April 3. About a half-dozen parents and friends appeared in front of the board protesting the layoffs and holding signs that said, “No to Cuts” and “Keep All Our Language Classes.” The small band of protesters said eliminating the part-time teacher position would adversely affect the Chinese language program. The second teacher facing a layoff has also been reinstated to a full-time position, according to School Board President Jon Primuth.

Primuth summarized the district’s sentiments this way: “We are glad to have our two teachers back.  Even healthy school districts go through this stressful annual cycle. In March, if conservative budget projections show an unacceptable deficit, districts issue layoff notices as a precautionary measure. Then in June, when they see more solid, better-than-projected enrollment and revenue numbers, they cancel the layoffs and things more or less go back to normal.”

The School Board has said it remains committed to foreign language instruction at the high school.

School Board member Julie Winkle Giulioni publicly reiterated the district’s commitment to the foreign language program at the high school during the layoff deliberations. In fact, she said she lost her first job by way of a layoff.

“This decision doesn’t reflect a lack of support for any program and I remain firmly committed to foreign language instruction throughout the district,” Giulioni said in an earlier email to The Review.

The South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education’s next scheduled meeting is June 12.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the assistant editor for the San Marino Tribune and the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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