Sacramento Teacher of the Year Among Layoff Notices

Michelle Apperson was named ‘Teacher of the Year’ for Sacramento City Unified School District in 2012 and has taught at Sutterville Elementary school for nearly a decade. But this May she received her final notice that she would be losing her job due to cuts in the budget.

Spokeman for Sacramento Unified, Gabe Ross, said, ‘It’s an awful situation. It’s another sign of how education’s funding really needs an overhaul.’

“I hate to see any teacher lose their job,” parent Kim Ochoa said. “But when you have teachers who are also winning awards like Ms. Apperson, they shouldn’t be cut. It’s our children and the people who spend time with our children who are suffering,”

The district was quick to claim they had no discretion over who received the notices as firing was based strictly on seniority according to state law. They have no authority to make the decision based on merit or to make exceptions.

“It hurts on a personal level because I really love what I do,” said Apperson. “But professionally, politically, I get why it happens.”

“I’m going to think positively and believe that it can be turned around and everybody has a say in November to make education first,”

Sacramento Unified noted that the final notices don’t mean she necessarily won’t be teaching at Sutterville next fall. How many people with notices get rehired depends upon the final state budget. Apperson said she was eighth on the rehire list.

About $43 million in cuts were made to the school district this year. That’s on top of the $100 million worth of cuts in the past four years according to Ross.

This isn’t the first time California’s state laws requiring seniority to be the criteria for determining teacher layoffs. With education reform setting a rapid pace across many states and linking teacher pay to student results in a move towards meritocracy and linking rewards to performance, this situation is a reminder that much still needs to be done. It’s hard to argue against the position that teacher of the year nominees, let alone the winners, should be safe from layoffs.