Business

Merced Union High school district lets some teachers go

The atmosphere was tense at the Merced Union High School District board meeting Wednesday night.

More than 100 employees, students and community members filled the Merced High School cafeteria before the school board entered into closed session to discuss the release of probationary teachers in the district.

James Figuera, a Golden Valley High School junior, attended the meeting to speak on behalf of Jacqueline Johnson.

"My freshman year, I was always getting in trouble. I was on the wrong path," Figuera said. "In my sophomore year, I was still doing bad, until I met Ms. Johnson."

Johnson teaches students with anger management issues at the school.

She said she was notified that she would not be "re-elected" by the school on March 2. After being recruited to the district from a private school less than two years ago, Johnson said she was not eager to look for another job.

Probationary teachers are in their first two years of service to a district and can be removed at any time, under California education hiring rules.

Several other crowd members spoke before the board left for closed session.

When the board returned from closed session, president Ida Johnson stated that more than one resolution had been passed under agenda item 4.1.

The resolution believed to include the probationary teachers passed 4-1, with Johnson dissenting.

Under California Government Code 54957, school boards can discuss employment issues in closed session and need only put on their agenda: "Public employee: discipline/dismissal/release." That was the only item listed for closed session agenda item 4.1.

The crowd stayed in the cafeteria for more than an hour after Johnson's announcement before being informed by a California Teachers Association representative that the item had already been voted on and the jobs had been eliminated.

The crowd congregated outside was upset with the lack of clarity during the meeting.

"They didn't make it clear at all," Jacqueline Johnson, the Golden Valley teacher, said. "We were a number, that's it."

Board members and district employees were still meeting early Thursday and could not confirm the number of teachers that were not re-elected. The board was to consider other budget cuts later in the evening.

Reporter Danielle Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

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