The San Diego Education Association union has agreed to consider concessions with the San Diego Unified School District after over 1,500 staff and counselors were given final layoff notices last month. NBC 7 Education reporter Rory Devine spoke with the districts president John Lee Evans and union member Megan Sussman about the potential concessions.
Hundreds of teachers, nurses and other education professionals who were told they would be laid off could possibly have a second chance at keeping their jobs.
The teachers' union has agreed to consider concessions with the San Diego Unified School District after over 1,500 staff and counselors were given final layoff notices last month.
School Board President John Lee Evans said some of those jobs could be saved, but wouldn't specify how many. Talks may result in an agreement to more furlough days, higher health insurance bills and pay cuts from all employees in the district.
Reached by NBC 7, Evans said he's optimistic about the development. The board is expected to meet with the San Diego Education Association as soon as possible.
"We will dollar-for-dollar see what they're able to do in terms of saving jobs," Evans said. "So we can save many of these jobs if we're able to come to an agreement."
The union's president Bill Freeman said he and his board will have to meet before they decide what they are willing to exchange for the jobs.
“Our board’s decision requires that the scope of negotiations must be agreed upon prior to the start of any discussions taking place," Freeman said in a statement. "That failure to reach an agreement will revert our contract to its current state."
The district has been hoping for such talks for months now. Since the budget crisis began, district trustees say schools are cut to the bone, and the only way now to have a balanced budget and to close a $122 million deficit was to lay off more than 1,500 teachers, nurses and counselors.
The district said the only hope to recall the final lay off notices, and bring teachers back to the classroom was for teachers to make concessions.
It now looks as though the union is willing to at least take a step forward to opening up talks.
SDEA agreeing to consider concessions is a sign that help is on the way, Evans said.
"It's very hopeful when we're not just talking at each other or against each other, but we're willing to sit down and talk," he said.
SDEA members aren't necessarily welcoming the new relationship with open arms, though.
"The general feeling among teachers is that the union is doing things before the general membership is informed about them," said Megan Sussman, a union member.
Sussman believes the union is giving up too much too soon, and that the options to teachers aren't as black and white as they are made to appear -- make concessions or face layoffs.
"[SDEA] kind of did a 180 degree turn on their position, which is a concern to members."
Since the layoff notices were approved by trustees, teachers and employees in the district have held several protests, and have appeared at SDUSD meetings.
Among those protesting were teachers from Fay Elementary School in City Heights where 27 out of 29 teachers were given layoff notices. An additional teacher was transferred.
"Some schools got one or two. But for the [schools] that have all of them laid off, that's not fair," said Fay Elementary parent Saharo Ali.
Even though some teachers have eight or nine years of experience, Fay Elementary's principal said this is common among schools in lower-income areas.
"Many schools in these areas -- City Heights, southeast San Diego -- tend to have the least amount of seniority," said Principal Eileen Moreno.
This may be a possibility. Reached by NBC 7 San Diego last week, the teacher's union president Bill Freeman said he plans to sit down with school board tomorrow and look at their finances.
"We don't know if the layoffs are necessary," Freeman said in the NBC 7 San Diego interview last week. "Our priority is to get those 1,500 jobs back."