HAYWARD -- A proposal to send out potential layoff notices to all school principals and vice principals has sparked concern from teachers and lawmakers about a lack of transparency and stability in the district.
Administrators at more than two dozen schools in the Hayward Unified School District received an email late last week telling them that the board would consider sending out the pink slips to give the superintendent flexibility to reorganize or restructure the district. State law requires districts to notify certain employees of the possibility of a layoff by March 15.
Last week, the board voted to dismiss five principals -- one high school, one middle school and three elementary -- and two assistant principals. The vote was 3-2, with board members Lisa Brunner, Luis Reynoso and Annette Walker voting yes, and John Taylor and Will McGee voting no.
At a special school board meeting Wednesday, speaker after speaker slammed the newest proposal, which would affect the rest of the district's 30 principals.
"I know what it's like to get a pink slip," Julie Greenfield, a district nurse, said during Wednesday's packed meeting that included a large number of teachers. "Even if it's rescinded, it doesn't feel good. It makes you think your work isn't valued."
Mercedes Faraj, president of Hayward Education Association, the teachers' union, questioned how the decision was made.
"When did this action occur? Who voted on this
Hayward High teacher Mary Walsh asked why the board was now coming back and considering sending out notices to those principals and vice principals who got good reviews. She said such an action sends the message, "You do a great job in Hayward, and you get laid off."
After listening to the speakers, the school board went into a closed session that lasted for more than two hours but took no action.
The board is scheduled to again consider the proposal at Wednesday's meeting.
On Thursday, trustee Annette Walker said she was surprised by the allegations of lack of transparency. "Sending out that letter was a part of the process to allow us to continue deliberations" about personnel before the March 15 deadline.
Superintendent Donald Evans would not comment Thursday on why the new proposal was being made, or whether he was solely responsible. By law, he cannot discuss what is said in closed session.
Yet, "one of the things I do agree with is that we want transparency," he said.
The district has started reorganizing, Evans said, "to provide great opportunities for our kids to be successful," he said. As an example, he said, one possibility would be for one of the high schools to become a performing arts academy.
The superintendent already has the authority to transfer principals and vice principals. When asked why he feels he needs the option of laying them off, he said, "I can't comment on that."
Dianne McDermott, president of the Hayward Education Foundation and a city planning commissioner, said after Wednesday's meeting that she was concerned about the possibility of notices going out just as schools were preparing students for standardized testing used to measure a district's performance.
"We're hoping it's not going to be a distraction," Evans said.
McDermott told the board, "To outsiders, we appear to be a dysfunctional family."
Board member Lisa Brunner said Thursday that she agreed there was a lack of transparency in the board considering sending out pink slip warnings a week after voting on layoffs. "People felt blindsided by this letter," she said.
Both state Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblyman Bill Quirk sent representatives to Wednesday's meeting to read statements.
"I am deeply concerned about reports I have received ... regarding the possibility of the districtwide administrative reorganization," Corbett wrote in her statement. "Public input should be allowed."
Quirk said the board should create stability by retaining dedicated and talented administrators. "I ask you as colleagues to be transparent," he said in the statement.