Eighteen first-year high school teachers in Pacifica were told on March 15 that they might not have their jobs come August.
Thirteen of those teachers are at Terra Nova High School, which is staffed by 54 teachers, and 5 are at Oceana High School, which has 32 teachers. All of those teachers are considered “temporary,” meaning they have one-year or, in some cases, semester-long contracts.
The news, which came in the form of pink slips, is not new to temporary teachers in Pacifica or the Jefferson Union High School District (JUHSD), which includes Pacifica’s two high schools. Many received them last March only to be rehired the following May.
The same could happen this year, said Thomas Minshew, principal at Terra Nova High School and incoming Superintendent of JUHSD.
“Every year our temporary first-year teachers get notified March 15,” he said. “There might not be a position for them next year, though.”
Whether the teachers will be hired back or not depends on student enrollment numbers for next school year and what those will mean for the student-to-teacher ratio at each school.
If enrollment drops enough at a school, then some teachers will not be hired back. That’s because schools at JUHSD are funded by the state based on how many students they educate. Rick Boitano, associate superintendent of JUHSD, said it is likely that enrollment will drop at JUHSD schools next year.
Last year, however, all Pacifica high school teachers who received pink slips in March were hired back 2 months later.
“We’re going to try to hire them back by sometime in May,” said Boitano. “Our intention is to hire them back. We’re forced to do this because of the financial situation that we’re in—if our enrollment doesn’t come in and we end up being overstaffed, it’s a major financial problem for us.”
Compared to other schools in JUHSD, Terra Nova High School stands to only fare better than one—Jefferson High School in Daly City, which could lose 10 temporary teachers and five probationary teachers, or teachers in their second or third year of teaching at the district who stand to be tenured at the end of their third.
“It’s not good for the schools to not know who is going to be there next year,” said Boitano. “Consistency is absolutely vital. Not having a consistent staff is a real roadblock in continued improvement.”
Boitano said that JUHSD could cut two part-time employees at its district office in addition to the 35 teachers district wide.
Pacifica School District, on the other hand, has managed to avoid any cuts to its teaching staff.
That’s due to careful planning when the district was preparing its staff budget for next year and an increase in the student-to-teacher ratio made during labor negotiations with the Laguna Salada Education Association, said Pacifica School District (PSD) Superintendent Wendy Tukloff.
Even in the worst case scenario where the district will lose more than $300 in funding per student next year, which may or may not happen depending on budget talks in the state legislature and the extension of the district's parcel tax, the district will not lose any teaching staff.
Those losses could be as high as $800 per student according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office.
“They did a really great job in staffing and being fiscally responsible so that we can hang on for next year,” said Tukloff. “It kind of becomes frightening when you see everybody doing this, though.”
Terra Nova High School teachers who received pink slips were contacted for comment but have not yet responded.