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What happens if a school district needs dozens of middle school teachers — but it has almost as many elementary school teachers looking for jobs?

That’s the conundrum facing San Diego Unified. It is a mismatch that staffers warned could arise from the school district strategy of balancing the golden handshake, which encouraged veteran employees to retire, with cuts to programs that slashed the number of jobs. Because most educators are entitled to jobs unless the school district lays them off, the strategy can backfire if the cuts that are made do not match the people who take the golden handshake. And that is the problem arising now.

Superintendent Terry Grier said that there are 185 teachers who have a right to a job, but for whom jobs cannot be found because of cuts. Most of them are elementary school teachers who cannot readily take the more than 100 teaching jobs that are available in San Diego Unified middle schools. Deborah Deal, a fiscal intervention specialist with the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, an outside group that is reviewing San Diego Unified finances, called it “problematic.”

“You don’t have a place for them,” she said. “Those are ongoing expenses.”

Grier also said the teachers union and the school district have made an agreement to encourage many of those teachers to be retrained as special education teachers, who are needed in the school district. I’m going to look for more information on that agreement — check back soon for the details.

EMILY ALPERT

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