Hurricane Sandy is wreaking havoc on the East Coast, but in Glendale, the storm provided a last minute extension for negotiations between Glendale Unified and the teachers union over a federal grant application that could bring $40 million to the district.
The 70-page application had all but been dead in the water Monday after missing the original deadline for making an overnight trip to Washington D.C. after the union refused to sign off on it. But then came Hurricane Sandy, which pummeled the Eastern Seaboard Monday, prompting officials to close federal offices and extend the application deadline for the Race to the Top funds to a yet-to-be-determined date.
“We have been given a minor reprieve because of Hurricane Sandy and Washington, D.C. being closed down,” said Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan.
Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson on Monday said the union had refused to sign off on the application because district officials had refused to take the possibility of teacher layoffs next year off the table.
Now, with more time on the clock, Glendale Unified sweetened the offer, promising to use the grant for 14 additional teacher specialists — about 55 new positions in all — instead of the previously proposed 40.
“We don’t see it as being dead quite yet,” Sheehan said, adding the district was “very hopeful” Carlson would reconsider.
The highly competitive grant money can’t be used to directly fund teacher salaries, but can be used on programming and classroom aides, such as teacher specialists. Teachers unions throughout the region have been wary of the money, concerned school districts will be unable to sustain the new expenditures once the grant money is exhausted.
Unions also don’t like a requirement attached to the money that student test scores be factored into teacher job evaluations.
“We don’t feel Race to the Top, with all the strings on it, can do a lot for the kids,” Carlson said Monday. “Our concern is keeping the teachers in the classroom. We were asking that they not tie up the reserves for the grant unless they can find enough reserves to keep the teachers in the classroom and not lay them off.”
But teacher layoffs and increased class sizes — especially for elementary classes — could still be likely regardless of the grant, according to Maria Gandera, assistant superintendent of human resources.
“Unfortunately, the funding for that class size reduction to remain at 24-to-1 is no longer feasible,” Gandera said. The grant, she added, offers more good than harm.
With the potential for $10 million to spend each year for four years, Gandera said the grant would fund 21 elementary intervention teachers, 8 secondary intervention teachers, seven curriculum specialists and more than a dozen more educational assistants, counselors and early education teachers.
“This is simply an opportunity to bring in $40 million for the district at a time when there are budget cuts left and right,” Gandera said.
-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan