Clark County's New Teachers of the Year among first to be laid off


The Clark County School District faces layoffs unprecedented since its inception in 1956. These firings have thrust the issue of seniority-based decisions to the forefront.

CCSD's proposed budget reduction of $407 million will eliminate about 1,800 positions, more than 1,000 of which are teachers.

In every case, it's the new teachers who are the first to go.

Principals district wide expressed the same concern with the system , saying it's not in the best interest of the kids.

"It really needs to be performance-based," said Cashman Middle School p rincipal Misti Taton, a former New Teacher of the Year. "We really need to look at the value added in a time of such accountability, and we're missing that aspect."

Last month CCSD honored six educators with New Teacher of the Year awards. Three don't expect to have their jobs when school starts in August.

CCSD doesn't use the words "layoff" and "fired." Teachers may be "surplused," according to the district, based on projected enrollment for next year, which means they are put into a pool of other surplused teachers and allowed to apply for any available jobs in the district. Teachers may be "RIF'd" if a reduction in force is implemented.

The number of teachers out of work won't be official until August.

One of them may be Catherine Davis, a sixth-grade English teacher at Cashman Middle School, 4622 W. Desert Inn Road.

"She's gone above and beyond," Taton said. "It's really hard to say, 'You're the best we have, now get out.' "

"None of us know how this all plays out," Taton said. "As the instructional leader, I feel saddened because I don't know how my staff profile is going to look next year."

Other teachers honored as New Teachers of the Year were Angela Foucher, Gene Ward Elementary School; Alexandra Garcia-Ache, Roger Bryan Elementary School; Deshundrick Johnson, Silvestri Junior High School; Autumn Malloy, Arbor View High School; and Nicole Klafter-Phillips, Fitzgerald Elementary School.

Fitzgerald p rincipal Laure Forsberg is planning to lose her exceptional new kindergarten teacher, Klafter-Phillips. The school is at 2651 Revere St. in North Las Vegas.

"She really is phenomenal," Forsberg said. "I am heartbroken about losing her. I literally would go into her classroom and tear up sometimes watching her teach.

"This is new to us. We haven't had to worry about (layoffs) before. A fair system should be in place, and it should be based on teacher effectiveness and not seniority. Children's success relies on the effectiveness of the teacher, whether they're new or they've been here 20 years.

"I'm losing those superstar teachers. We lose our best and brightest these days, and our kids can't afford that."

A common complaint about the layoffs is new teachers earn the lowest salaries, so more of them need to be cut to meet the budget.

Math teacher Autumn Malloy said she expects to have her job next year at Arbor View High School, 7500 Whispering Sands Drive, but it's still "up in the air."

She, like other teachers and principals, thinks that most teachers, junior and senior, are doing a great job.

"The ones with seniority worked just as hard as we have," Malloy said. "I believe a good majority deserve the seniority; it's just a few that give them a bad name."

Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo defended the teachers union and the seniority system in place.

"It's a system that's been in place forever," Murillo said. "It provides teachers with a balance. There may be ways to tweak the seniority list, but the bottom line is, seniority is a way for teachers to have a little security, not because of who or what they are but because of what they do."

Murillo said teachers unions were put in place, in part, to protect teachers from discrimination.

He also said the issue is coming to a head only now because of the budget crisis.

Murillo also said principals should take responsibility for underperforming teachers and provide guidance to improve their performance.

Roger Bryan Elementary School principal Cynthia Alamshaw is thankful that her special education teacher, Garcia-Ache, is expected to be back at the school, 8255 W. Katie Ave., next year.

Alamshaw said Garcia-Ache is the first teacher she has nominated for the award and that "Allie," as she's known, was "born to work with students."

Garcia-Ache -- young and enthusiastic -- feels as if she's hit the jackpot and is relieved to keep her position at her school.

"I'm so excited for Mondays," she said.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

 

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