Lacy Adams knows she’ll be teaching somewhere in the come Monday morning. She’s just not sure where.
The district announced this week it will bring back all of the hundreds of full-time teachers and other professional staff it—just days before students are set to begin classes at the 12 district elementary schools that follow a year-round schedule.
Now district employees are scrambling to inform teachers like Adams who have previously received pink slips and tell them where to report for duty.
“Our staff is working hard to get notices out to any teacher hasn’t heard anything by the end of day on Friday,” said district spokesperson Torreyana Johnson. Staff people were personally calling those teachers expected to start work on Monday, she said.
Prompted by a law state legislators passed in the final hours of budget negotiations, the decision keeps class sizes at 24 for kindergarten through third grade and 28 for grades four through six, after fears that they would grow to 30.
But it’s not as simple as letting teachers back into their old classrooms.
Adams, for example, was teaching sixth grade at until recently, when she was told to pack her things: Her job had been given to a teacher with more seniority who had been downsized from another school.
With eight years of experience, Adams was later told her layoff had been rescinded and she would receive a call about sixth grade positions at other schools. The call never came.
Of the teachers Adams worked with at Carroll, she said some have been transferred to other schools or grade levels, some are looking for jobs outside the district and others, like her, are still in limbo.
“After working somewhere for so many years, you get to know your team so well,” Adams said. “This was the first year I felt we were all just so cohesive and now we’re all separated.”
While the district over the last few months has already hired back about 250 of the 400-plus professional employees initially slated for layoff, that still leaves more than 150 more to be rehired—plus those, like Adams, who have been promised a job but have no specific assignment.
It’s a complicated game of musical chairs that the district says it’s trying to resolve as soon as possible. Adams said her union, the Elk Grove Education Association, is telling teachers they may have to show up at a school site and “just help out” until they’re given a specific job.
Union president Maggie Ellis asked parents to be patient during the first week of school as assignments are sorted out. She characterized the agreement to bring teachers back as a victory not just for teachers but for families and the community.
“We truly believe class size reduction makes a difference in a child’s classroom experience,” she said. “Being able to continue that for another year is a real win.”
Whether it’s a win for the district’s finances is another story. California school districts protested the law requiring that teachers be reinstated, Assembly Bill 114, saying mid-year budget cuts from the state could make it impossible to maintain staffing levels. Elk Grove Unified took two weeks to announce that it would comply with the law’s requirements.
Many teachers spent that time looking for a backup plan. Navi Sarkaria, a former fifth-grade teacher at , is part of a group of teachers on temporary contracts who aren’t affected by the new agreement. She’s applied for a job at a West Sacramento charter school while she waits to see whether enrollment will be high enough in Elk Grove Unified for the district to call her back. The pay at the charter school would be lower, she said, but there might be more job security.
Adams said she started moonlighting in public relations over the summer, just in case.
“When I went into this, I thought it was one of best jobs for job security, but it has turned out not to be,” she said.