By Theresa Harrington
The Mt. Diablo school district is preparing to celebrate the “Day of the Teacher” on May 12. It is also preparing to send out more than 100 final layoff notices to educators two days later.
The district held administrative hearings about layoffs last week that did not change the status of most teachers who attended, according to Gail Isserman, assistant superintendent for personnel.
Teacher Michael Smidebush, whose Concord High School robotics class recently earned an education award at an international competition, said he has been pink-slipped each of the last three years he has been teaching. But each year, his preliminary layoff notice was rescinded.
“It’s a miserable situation,” he said. “In education, there are some aspects of it that are really undesireable.”
Smidebush worked as an engineer for 25 years before turning to teaching.
“This is my second career,” he said. “To put your heart and soul into your job and get a pink slip just — because that’s the process — it’s kind of demoralizing.”
Here is a video of Smidebush proudly talking about his students’ accomplishments. He said he cares deeply about the teens and he will miss those who are graduating when he returns next year.
“They’re like my children now,” he said. “I have two of my own, away in college. I had to fill up the void with 150.”
The students raved about Smidebush and his “industry” approach to teaching through hands-on projects.
“We won the education award because we integrate the robotics curriculum with science and math in a unique way that hasn’t been tried before,” said Nick Bublitz, 18.
Yet, without funding from the Contra Costa County Office of Education, that class would likely be eliminated because of district budget cuts, said Principal Gary McAdam. He was pleased that Smidebush’s pink slip was rescinded, but said the school’s band director Gary Coartney and choir director Christian Emigh have not been so luckly.
“We’ve got two wonderful music teachers that are still on the layoff list and do a great job,” he said. “They just came back from New Orleans with honors.”
Isserman said the district will release the results of the administrative hearing Friday. The board will vote on final teacher layoffs Tuesday and the district will send out the final pink slips by May 14, she said.
The district is currently negotiating with all employee bargaining units except for the teachers’ union, Isserman said.
“They did a survey of their members,” she said. “We’re ready to go.”
The district is proposing increased class sizes, pay cuts through furlough days and reduced benefits.
Meanwhile, state Senate Bill 955 proposes to move the teacher layoff notice date from March 15 to June 15, ditch the seniority system and allow districts to layoff teachers according to subject needs and teacher effectiveness.
Do you agree with the current system that allows teachers with more seniority to keep their jobs, while newer teachers are laid-off?
By Theresa Harrington