unedited June Tahoe Mt. News
By Kathryn Reed
Temporary vs. probationary teachers – that’s the gist of court documents filed by South Tahoe Educators Association against Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
Judge Jerry Lasarow is scheduled to hear the case June 27.
The writ of mandate was filed in El Dorado County Superior Court on Jan. 29. The issue has been percolating for more than a year. A teachers’ union official said talks went nowhere so now it’s a court matter.
A “temporary” teacher can be dismissed at anytime without a hearing. When a “probationary” teacher is dismissed he has a right to a hearing. If a probationary teacher is laid off, he has seniority when it comes to being hired back.
“We figure 13 people right now are classified as temporary in our district. We feel only about five of those are legitimate because of leaves of absence and other reasons,” STEA President Steve Hayward said shortly after the filing. “It is more convenient to keep people temporary because (the district) can say ‘bye, bye’.”
In other words, the district has flexibility with temps when it comes to not filling the position the next year. Even at “probationary zero” status, which is what the union would like these people listed as, they must have a hearing.
Theoretically, teachers could be a probationary zero for a number of years before moving to probe 1, then probe 2 and then permanent, also known as tenured.
“There is no money involved. That’s why we can’t figure out why the district won’t pay attention to the Bakersfield ruling,” Hayward said. “They wrote back and said it didn’t apply.”
The 2006 Bakersfield case is a California appeals courts decision interpreting a section of the state Education Code about teachers who are paid with categorical funds.
According to court documents, the union believes “that these misclassified teachers were either: (1) assigned to categorically funded positions or (2) replacing teachers assigned to categorically funded positions.”
The documents go on to say, “… both groups of teachers are entitled to be classified as probationary employees with all rights of probationary employees so long as the fund source for the categorically funded programs continued.”
The convoluted funding mechanism of public schools has it so certain money can only be put toward specific things – not directly into the general fund to be dispersed at the school board’s discretion. They are called categorical funds. Special education and English learner programs are just two types of categorical funds.
As for the district’s point-of-view, officials don’t discuss pending litigation.
Superintendent Jim Tarwater said, “I can’t really comment on it. It will work its way through the court system.”
LTUSD’s attorney, Allen Vinson, did not return calls.