With budget cuts bearing down on schools, San Diego Unified has asked teachers to verify when they started working. It’s a high-stakes question: As schools consider laying off hundreds of employees, those with the least experience will go first.

The teachers union is urging employees not to cooperate. The union has complained that teachers may not remember dates accurately and don’t know the law. Legal rules that set forth how much of a teacher’s experience counts toward their seniority have changed in recent years, making it confusing for teachers who’ve worked as probationary teachers to determine exactly when they started work.

“This is about helping them to lay us off,” said Camille Zombro, president of the teacher’s union, in a recent interview. “If this were a real process, where folks really had time to look at their records and discuss it with a payroll technician,” it might be different, she said. “They’re rushing through a process, frightening people, and asking them to sign next to a date.”

Chief Human Resources Officer Sam Wong said asking employees to verify when they started working is one of several ways the district is trying to confirm teachers’ seniority, and tried to reassure board members after Zombro criticized the practice.

“Human resources ought to be human,” Wong said, explaining that his office was ensuring its personnel records were accurate. He emphasized that the school district would work with employees who were laid off to help them find new jobs. “I am fully able to sit down and talk to them about what’s best for our employees.”

Unconvinced, the union is advising teachers not to verify when they started working, and issued this e-mail to members:

SDEA strongly discourages all members from signing these lists (unless directed to do so by the administrator). If you are directed to sign, write the following statement next to your initials/signature “I cannot verify this information.”

The District is responsible for maintaining accurate personnel information, NOT individual employees and NOT site principals. We all know that SDUSD personnel records are notoriously inaccurate. In addition, recent lawsuits have changed the way some seniority dates are calculated – so a date which may appear accurate to you could actually be wrong because of changes in interpretation of the law. Verifying a seniority date, which may later prove to be inaccurate, could jeopardize our efforts to defend members from lay-off procedures.

If you have already signed or initialed a seniority date for your administrator PLEASE do the following:

  • Ask to check the list again and write the following statement by your initials: “I cannot verify this information”.
  • If you are denied access to the list, submit a written statement to your administrator (and keep a copy!) saying the following: “I am no longer sure that the seniority date you had me initial on ______(date)_____ is accurate. I am therefore asking that you remove my signature from the list or attach this letter to the list on my behalf.”

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