By Ajay Singh | Eagle Rock Patch| http://bit.ly/fuzAgQ
A protester at the demonstration outside the LAUSD headquarters Credit Ajay Singh
1 December 2010 - 7:38am - Shouting "Save our schools" and waving placards with the words "Great Schools are Fully Staffed," hundreds of demonstrators marched through downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday evening, hours before more than 1,000 LAUSD employees were set to lose their jobs.
Some 350 protesters gathered across the street from the LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry Avenue to protest the latest wave of layoffs, which took effect Wednesday morning. Although no teachers are among those axed, the job cuts have hit school maintenance and clerical staff as well as nurses and librarians, according to LAUSD, which is facing a $640 million deficit.
The Nov. 30 demonstration was called by the United Teachers of Los Angeles, a labor union that represents some 45,000 public school teachers as well as health and human services professionals in Los Angeles, and several other unions such as Teamsters.
"We're very concerned about the state of public education," said Sandy Neveler, an elementary school substitute teacher in Central Los Angeles for the past 12 years. "We know that the District has the money—and they need to use it to preserve the quality of public education instead of selling out to charter schools."
Some 6,100 LAUSD employees have either been laid off or moved into new jobs since June, according to the Los Angeles Times. Today's job cuts represent nearly 77 percent of the District's so-called "reduction in force"—or "RIF"—for 2010, the paper reported.
At Eagle Rock High School, faculty and staff bid farewell on Tuesday to five staff members who lost their jobs. Like other LAUSD schools, Eagle Rock High reopened Monday after a five-day furlough that, together with another five-day furlough and two pupil-free days in 2011, will help the school district save $140 million and more than 2,000 jobs, including those of teachers and counselors, according to the LAUSD.
Among those laid off at Eagle Rock High was Sonia Garcia, a credit clerk in the school's accounting office who kept track of students' cumulative records that determine whether or not they earn a diploma.
"It's a huge job," said Eric Jacobson, an Eagle Rock High counselor who's also an alumnus of the school. "For a school of 3,100 it's more than one person can do—and she did it."
Eagle Rock High had a farewell party on Tuesday for the five staff members who have been laid off—and Garcia was working till the last minute, said Jacobson, adding: "She was excellent at her job, easy to work with, good with parents and never complained."
What's particularly hurtful about Garcia's job loss is that although she knew about it for the past month she didn't use even a fraction of her 180 hours of sick leave, said Jacobson. "Now it's all gone because she's not retiring," he said. "She could have used it but she didn't because she had too much integrity—she kept coming in at 7:30 in the morning and working all day."
At Tuesday's demonstration downtown, the anger and frustration among many protesters was palpable as they marched around the multi-storied LAUSD headquarters. "Don't tread on me," said Jim Hayden, a teacher at Chatsworth High School, echoing the words emblazoned on a flag with red and white stripes that he carried. At the top of the flag was an image of a rattlesnake—"the idea is, 'don't step on me or I'll bite you,'" said Hayden, explaining that such flags were used during the Revolutionary War and are still flown from the bow of U.S. Navy ships. "I'm a history teacher," Hayden added. "Why else would I have a flag like this?"
Kevin Armente, a social studies teacher at Wilson High School said that although his job is secure so far, he was worried about the latest round of layoffs at LAUSD because of its affect on the quality of education. "They're getting rid of nursing staff and librarians," he said. "What kind of education are children going to have without librarians?"
At Eagle Rock High, the departure of Sonia Garcia is yet another reminder of "how dysfunctional and negative the District is," said Jacobson, adding: "I'm not usually critical of the District—there's a lack of money obviously and it's a hard job trying to educate every single student who walks through the door."
But laying off someone like Garcia who's "excellent at her job doesn't make any sense," said Jacobson. Besides, "she's got a family of three or four kids and it's just before Christmas—what an awful time to lose your job."