Catherine Gagulashvili copy editor
Alya Mehrtash staff writer
As the BHUSD reconfiguration process moves forward, Reduction in Force (RIF) notices have been handed out to 19 teachers district-wide. The pink slips were all handed out in compliance with the California law stating that districts must initially notify teachers who are to be laid off by March 15. Within two months of this date, official layoff decisions must be made.
The RIF notices, also commonly referred to as “pink slips,” are due in part to the reconfiguration process, in which there will be a consolidation of classes and a need for fewer teachers. The process, as superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy explains, doesn’t affect all staff, such as leadership positions, because the expected number of overall enrolled students is not expected to decrease.
“Reconfiguration comes to improve instruction because you’re actually putting more students together [in a given class]. So, that’s why you wouldn’t need as many teachers at the end of the day,” Bregy said. “You’re looking at different programs in four different schools. that’s why you will see consolidation as it comes to our teaching staff because you’re consolidating those classes, but with the administration and like custodians, as well, there’s still the same number of students [overall]. So, that’s why some areas are impacted and others are not.”
Despite the negative effects of RIF notices on some teachers, Beverly Hills Education Association (BHEA) President Ethan Smith acknowledged that overstaffing makes it necessary for them to be distributed.
“In Beverly Hills, with reconfiguration, we will have too many teachers for next year and RIF notices have now been issued,” Smith said. “While BHEA is never pleased when our members receive RIF notices, we do understand the necessity during this unique time.”
El Rodeo principal Kevin Allen personally hired many of the teachers that have received pink slips. He feels that their talent as educators makes it difficult to let them go.
“It’s obviously tough on morale, and not to mention the fact that these are some of the best teachers that I’ve ever seen. They are amazing educators and for us to lose this kind of talent is just really hard to see,” Allen said. “I understand why it is, but it still just doesn’t make it any easier.”
It’s crucial to Smith that the BHEA leadership makes certain that the teachers are treated fairly in the pink slip process.
“For those teachers, once they have been given a RIF notice, wondering when or if that notice will be rescinded obviously consumes much of their thinking,” Smith said. “It also requires that the leadership of BHEA works diligently to ensure that our members who have received RIF notices are treated fairly throughout the process.”
The process of deciding those who receive a notice has been a “complicated” one, in which the district considers several variables before deciding to let someone go.
“But what we’re doing now is, is we’re looking at that data, looking to see how many students do we have [and] what courses [they are] taking. It’s a very complicated and complex process. We have to look [at a teacher’s] credentials and seniority…” Bregy said. “It depends on the credential that the teacher [has] and so, you actually go one-by-one and you have to [see] if [they] are credentialed in a multi-subject area or not, and so then, what is their seniority?”
Though he knows it has to be done, Allen is still upset about the distribution of pink slips.
“I equate it to when you have to take medicine but you know it’s just going to taste terrible. It’s pretty devastating. You know why you have to do it but it just doesn’t make it any easier,” Allen said.
Allen feels that both parties–the district and the teachers–will face losses in this process.
“These are people. These are human beings. This is their livelihood,” Allen said. “It’s a loss for our district and for our students because these are some amazing teachers. It’s a loss for the teachers because this is their jobs. It’s just really difficult.”
Bregy sympathizes with those affected by this process, as he has been on their end of the situation. One of the most grueling parts, in Bregy’s opinion, is the uncertainty of job security, as some teachers, after initial dismissal, are re-hired over the summer or at a later date.
“Every single year that I’ve been in public education which is you know, 25 years, is that there are pink slips and it panics everyone. It’s like this in every school district and it really breaks my heart because I was a teacher that got a pink slip. And even though people said, ‘You’re probably going to come back,’ when you see your name on that piece of paper saying that you don’t have a job and everyone around you is saying, ‘Oh, it’ll probably work out,’ [you’re like,] ‘Well, that’s my career.’ So it pains me to know that we do that,” Bregy said.
The pink slip is not ideal for teachers and the BHEA, but Smith hopes that reconfiguration could ultimately lead to a reduction in the distribution of such notices.
“In the bigger picture, our hope is that with reconfiguration will come a new efficiency in the district and its budget. This will mean future RIF notices can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced,” Smith said.
Many teachers and members of the BHEA, if they themselves have not personally received a pink slip, are still able to feel the pain and confusion their colleagues must feel when receiving RIF notices.
“I’ve sat in on meetings where teachers have been given RIF notices. I have seen the looks of shock and watched the tears fall. Being given a RIF notice is never pleasant, neither for the teacher or their colleagues,” Smith said.
Smith also expressed his gratitude for the BHHS staff. For the most part, many of them remain unaffected by the pink slips, but they continue to support their colleagues.
“The faculty at Beverly Hills High School is largely unaffected by the RIF notices. Despite this, the BHEA Officers and Representatives from your school continue to work diligently for their colleagues at the four TK-8 schools, who are the most affected. I applaud their efforts in our meetings and on our committees,” Smith said. “They know that an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”