San Lorenzo to lay off 79 teachers

May 8, 2009 11:51:42 PM PDT
Parents and teachers in San Lorenzo are furious, where the school board voted to lay off 79 people, most of them are teachers. The decision came at a rare Friday afternoon meeting and the timing of it just added to the community's anger.

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If the goal was to keep critics away from a controversial meeting, but it didn't work. People filled every seat in the room and spilled out into the hallway, even though the meeting was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on a Friday.

"I thought the timing of the meeting on a Friday evening was very inappropriate," said teacher April Ellis.

School board members in San Lorenzo said they weren't trying to hide the layoffs, that scheduling demands and a state deadline forced them to call the special meeting on a Friday.

"We have held meetings on many occasions on Friday night," said school board president Norman Forbert.

The crowd came ready to complain. But the frustration escalated yet again when the board president answered some questions by referring to past meetings and shut down the public comment period after about 15 minutes.

"I was appalled. I felt it was disrespectful. I felt it was disingenuous," said teacher Sue Granzalla.

"We're the ones who get the heat because they can't talk to the governor, but they can talk to me," said Forbert.

School board members said they had to vote to lay off 79 people because they have a $7.9 million deficit. The cuts will raise the teacher to student ratio from 20 to one to 24 to one, which is a huge concern for the parents.

"I do not think I am going to leave my son there. I don't want him to fall behind," said Zarinah Shabazz, a parent.

Board President Norman Fobert says it felt awful to vote for the cuts. Especially since his wife is a teacher in the district. Still, the board says expect even more layoffs if the economy doesn't get better soon.

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