Program Cuts, Golden Handshake Lay Egg

It looks like the San Diego Unified School District has more elementary school teachers than it needs and not enough middle schools teachers -- and now there could be a big bill to pay.

Because of class-size increases that were adopted to balance the budget -- and “golden handshakes” given to senior staffers to induce early retirements -- the district ended up with too many teachers in one area and not enough in the other.

The question facing the district is whether to retrain the 185 teachers without positions or send them pink slips; right now, there are 133 openings for teachers at middle schools and none of the 185 teachers have a single subject credential required to teach middle school.

One solution being considered is paying the teachers their salaries while the district pays for them to go back to school to get the extra credential, and also to incentivize them to do so by paying for a master’s degree as well.

School-board member Katherine Nakamura said she believes that it's not fair to do that while other teachers are doing more with less, that it’s not fair to students who deserve the most qualified teacher and that it’s not fair to a district that is in a budget crisis.
Nakamura said that the district will not only be paying for the teacher’s education but also for the raises -- over a 20-year period -- that come with it.

“Why are we paying for this?” Nakamura wondered. “There are lots of talented people out there.”

School-board member Shelia Jackson, however, said that by investing in teachers the district knows, it will end up with a stronger core of teachers.

“We want to invest in teachers we have here…,” Jackson said. “They're going to tend to do a much better job because they know you had faith in them and were willing to invest in them.”

Some school officials say there is still time to give pink slips -- until Aug. 15 -- and that perhaps they should be considered.

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