More than 900 out of roughly 9,300 San Diego Unified certificated employees will get pink slips this week — a staggering number that results from the elimination of nearly 62 counseling jobs, 21 principals, 54 vice principals, 28 nursing jobs and 630 classroom teaching spots.

School trustees voted Tuesday to issue the notices, which inform certificated workers that their jobs might be cut. While the pink slips aren’t a guarantee that employees will lose their jobs, the numbers have unnerved employees. Pink slips will be served to 903 certificated employees, including more than 400 teachers with multiple credentials who started working at San Diego Unified in September 2002 or later. In addition, all certificated managers such as principals and vice principals will get notices that they could be reshuffled elsewhere in the district.

Nurses implored the school board to spare them, citing the explosion of asthma and autism, and the peril of relying on office staff or less-trained assistants to dole out medications and assess health problems. Counselors pointed to studies on their value, and the danger of suicides and school shootings. Parents grew angry with the school board, demanding that they seek out waste, trim from the top, and hold California legislators accountable for the $16 billion statewide deficit, which has propelled the school cuts. San Diego Unified is faced with an $80 million shortfall — a number that could collapse or expand, depending on whether state government rolls back the cuts this summer.

“When the unexpected health problem happens to your child at school, who do you want to protect them? A secretary? An unlicensed health aide?” asked Kathleen Burke, a nurse at Chollas/Mead Elementary School.

School board members said they sympathized with the worries, but needed to send the pink slips so that San Diego Unified staffers have as much flexibility as possible when finalizing their fall budget.

“We are as angry and as frustrated as you are,” board president Katherine Nakamura said, prompting one attendee to shout, “Prove it!”

“But we are not going to bankrupt this district” by not budgeting for the worst-case scenario, Nakamura added.

Shelia Jackson was the sole trustee to vote against the pink slips, a move that won her approving shouts from the crowd. Hundreds of parents, students and employees packed the school district’s auditorium, with dozens more standing outside, awaiting a chance to enter. Outside the school board’s building on Normal Street, children and parents hoisted signs decrying the cuts, and calling for the school district to resist — not accommodate — the cuts.

Budget cuts are a “silly game that gets repeated year in and year out in the state,” said Lonnie Rowell, who coordinates the counseling program at the University of San Diego. “It’s an incredible dose of discouragement.”

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly identified the types of managers who will be noticed of potential reassignment.


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