Pink Slips go out for Merced Teachers

Merced, Calif. Teachers say this is a case of good news, bad news. The good news is all of the full time employees who receive notices are expected to be hired back. The bad news is more than a dozen temporary teachers may lose their jobs, and class sizes are expected to increase.

After months of emotional meetings, the Merced City School District Board announced Tuesday night it will send pink slips to 72 teachers. But kindergarten teacher Darren Sakata says she and her colleagues were relieved to hear that all 56 of the full time employees on that list are expected to be hired back.

Kindergarten Teacher Darren Sakata said, "Of course we're very heart broken for the temporary employees because they will be hired back on a need be basis. But at least to know the full time employees will keep their jobs is a sigh of relief."

However Sakata and some parents are concerned about the impact the cutbacks will have on students. The district is planning to modify its class size reduction program, which means there will be up to 24 students for every teacher in kindergarten through third grade. Right now kindergarten classes have 20 students and two teachers. Jennifer Salcido says that ratio has helped her son excel.

Jennifer Salcido said, "I have volunteered in his class, so I've seen what it's like with the 20 kids, and it's a good, and they have help, and I just can't imagine 24 kids to one teacher."

The state legislature passed the class size reduction program in 1996 to improve student achievement, but studies on its effectiveness are mixed. However, Melissa Root, a mother of three who teaches Child Development at Merced College, says smaller classes keep kids from falling through the cracks.

Child Development Teacher Melissa Root said, "The better the student teacher ratio, the better for the kids, no one can say the opposite."

Teachers we spoke with say they're just relieved the board didn't vote to eliminate the class size reduction program all together. That would have pushed the student teacher ratio as high as 30 to one.


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