CONCORD — After four years at the school she has grown to love, Jessica Beerbaum won't return to her fifth-grade classroom at Silverwood Elementary for the coming school year.
"When I'm teaching, I'm as happy as I've ever been in my life," said Beerbaum, 56, whose position has been filled by someone with more seniority. "I can't bear the thought of not teaching. I know that's what I'm supposed to be doing right now, and I know I'm good at it and I give it my all."
Beerbaum is one of nearly 200 teachers and other credentialed employees in the Mt. Diablo school district who received final pink slips in May, telling them they would be out of work after the school year ends Monday. Statewide, about 20,000 teachers were on layoff lists last month, said Mike Myslinski, a spokesman for the California Teachers Association.
More than 26,000 teachers in California received preliminary pink slips in March, but about 6,000 of those were later rescinded, he said. As the summer progresses, more teachers could be hired back as districts finalize their staffing based on union negotiations, budget revisions, retirements and other departures.
"We expect several thousand to lose their jobs," Myslinski said. "The numbers are still coming in, but it's going to be painful."
Some Contra Costa County districts are not being hit quite as hard as Mt. Diablo. The Acalanes district, which passed a parcel tax in May, was able to rescind all 71 of its pink slips.
The Antioch district, on the other hand, expects to lose nearly 100 teachers, including 18 from Marsh Elementary, which may welcome a different staff in the fall under a new principal as it reforms to get off the district's list of lowest performing schools.
Ashley Rubino, a kindergarten teacher at Belshaw Elementary in Antioch, said she hopes to be rehired next year after being laid-off this month.
Rubino attended Antioch schools from second grade through high school, graduating in 2001. She said she chose to return to the district because of her fond memories and the belief that it is important for teachers to work in the communities where they live.
Although Rubino said some Antioch teachers are furious about being laid off, she does not feel let down by the district.
"I understand why they did it, and I know its not a personal thing," she said.
Under state law, teachers are laid off based on their credentials and seniority, according the district's needs. Many teachers in the Antioch district were laid off because of increased class sizes due to budget cuts.
In Alameda County, the Oakland district plans to release 38 of its first- and second-year teachers who do not have tenure — staffing decisions that are not necessarily budget-related — and to lay off four part-time counselors, two adult education teachers and 35 tenured classroom teachers who lacked a required state certification. The school district's support staff is taking the brunt of layoffs, with 125 nonteaching employees out of work this month.
The San Lorenzo district cut 110 jobs, but they may rescind several layoff notices based on teachers' union negotiations, said Superintendent Dennis Byas. Newer teachers are some of the best-trained in the history of California education, he said.
"What concerns me is that we may end up losing a generation of incredible teachers and may not be able to recapture them," he said. "In the next three to five years, we're going to wind up with a teacher shortage across the entire state. And it will be a travesty to education and the young lives we could have transformed."
The desire to transform students' lives prompts many teachers, including Robin Evans at Silverwood Elementary in Concord, to enter the education field. She teaches first- through third-grade special education students skills such as reading, so they can eventually graduate from high school.
"I just love teaching these guys and I love this age group," said Evans, 50. "The 14th (of June) is going to be a hard day. I cry a lot."
Beerbaum said the tenure system was established to protect teachers from being laid off for unjust reasons. Many people feel frustrated because it does not take into consideration effectiveness or dedication, she said.
"I think we need to be on the cutting edge," she said. "If the teaching profession doesn't step in and figure out a new system, I'm afraid the politicians are going to do it for us because the taxpayers are fed up with the system as it is."
Although she is nervous about losing her job, Beerbaum said she's trying to keep an even keel because her students deserve to have a great end to their school year. However, 10-year-old Kaci Trujullo said she understands what Beerbaum is going through.
"I think she is sad that she is leaving and if she could keep teaching, she would be much happier," Kaci said. "But, she doesn't want to tell us that, because she wants us to be happy."
Staff writers Katy Murphy, Paul Burgarino, Kristofer Noceda, Hilary Costa, Hannah Dreier, Robert Jordan, Eric Louie, Shelly Meron, Jonathan Morales, Elisabeth Nardi and Linh Tat contributed to this story.
Layoffs in some East Bay school districts as of June 4 (may include temporary staff members):
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
More information about school layoffs is available at www.standupforschools.org.
Source: Bay Area News Group -- East Bay research