"We're in the classroom working with students," says Quintanilla. "[The district] didn't negotiate with us at all. They've never done something like this." The predicament facing laid-off, longtime employees like Quintanilla: If they choose to apply for the part-time positions, they may lose their retirement or retire without benefits.

Employees are now fearful the same tactics used to oust the special-education aides will be used on them. Although official layoff notices have not been sent out, some employees have been told, unofficially, by their school principals that they will lose their jobs.

"Our principal is one of the few who tells us what's going on," says an 18-year-veteran office assistant at an elementary school who wished to remain anonymous.

Burrell says a total of 481 layoffs, the majority classified positions, were approved with the passage of the budget. A total of 505 "new" part-time positions will be created when the board finalizes its vote July 8, she says. "Laid-off employees will be able to reapply for these positions," she says. "And we were able to rescind 560 of 573 teacher layoffs, which is positive."

However, Palacio, Strike and other employees say they believe the number of classified employees who will lose their jobs may be higher once the final state budget is approved in July and the district revises it one more time.

The union has estimated the number could then reach into the 600 or 700 range, which would be debilitating to schools, students and teachers, says Palacio. "This is about fairness, about respecting our employees. Some people have been here for 20 years. These are the employees who are taxpayers, who are parents in the district, who live here. The way you show them respect is by giving them a good salary and good benefits."

daltan@ocweekly.com

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