Mt. Shasta Elementary School staff protests layoffs

Skye Kinkade
A group of determined classified staff met before Tuesday’s MSUSD meeting to show their displeasure with impending layoffs.

Layoffs – a familiar lament around the nation – are now on the verge of hitting Mount Shasta Union School District, as board members approved a final resolution of intention to dismiss classified employees at their meeting last Tuesday evening.

A group of impassioned Teacher Assistants banded together to hold a protest against such layoffs outside the district office before the meeting, and spoke about their many concerns during public comment once the meeting began.

Neither superintendent Gary Lampella nor board member Jean Nels were present.

“First of all, I want to thank you for all you do,” said Marji Correa, a member of the MSUSD staff as she stood to speak to the board. “I know that what you do can often be a thankless job, and I appreciate the sacrifices you make.

“I’m not here to save my job,” Correa continued as her voice began to waver. “I’m here for the students... I didn’t know I’d be this emotional, so I will ask in advance for you to forgive me if I offend anyone, because that’s not why I’m here, either,” she said.

“Cuts in the classroom will impact our students tremendously. As someone who works with interventions, I know the tremendous needs of today’s students that the staff will be unable to handle on their own. I know that supervision of students outside on the playground is important, but perhaps there are other ways for that need to be met. For example, secretaries, teachers, and other staff could take shifts to supervise children, allowing for more aid time in the classroom. Medical benefits for the board are a luxury that we can no longer afford. And what about other cost saving measures? You asked for our ideas, but I don’t know that they’ve been looked at. Cutting staff is the easiest and fastest way to cut costs, but there may be other options available... ones that will allow you to strengthen TA presence at the school sites,” Correa finished.

Dawn Dawson stood, asking the question, “How do you justify raising the reserve when the cost of retaining TAs is only 3% of the total budget?”

“You don’t save a tree by cutting off its roots,” said CSEA representative Joe Kessler. “The classified staff are the roots of this district, and they are willing to take their fair share of cuts... just not the entire share. If you’re looking to prune limbs, you need to look up.”

Woody Morgan reminded the board that TAs don’t take their jobs for the money, and that they devote their lives to children. “Some of these people [who are to be layed off] have had over 15 years of experience in the classroom with students,” she said. “Teachers will have two options [without instructional aide time]. One would be to begin teaching to the standards... losing lower students along the way, who won’t have the support they need... or two: to teach core curriculum, and watch test scores plummet dramatically.”

All the classified staff present stood during Morgan’s presentation, and as she called their names, they left the meeting to symbolize their impending absence in the classroom.

After public comment was complete, boardmember Leslie Cole expressed her dissatisfaction with being forced to layoff staff.

“It’s tough... this is not a happy place to be sitting right now. I’m sorry, and I feel terrible,” Cole said.

“We have to look at the worst case scenario,” said boardmember Lutie Lyman. “Just because we approve this resolution doesn’t mean that’s the end... this will be an ongoing discussion,” he said.

Boardmembers Paul Schwartz, Chuck Rosecrantz, Lyman and Cole then unanimously voted to approve the resolution.