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Effects of Layoffs Linger at JCs Despite Rehiring of PE Teachers

September 12, 1986|DAVID MORGAN and STEVE SPRINGER | Times Staff Writers

Two months after the ax fell, the bodies are coming back to life, if not the spirits.

Five physical education teachers in the Los Angeles Community College District returned to work this week, two months after being laid off as part of what was called "an overdue change in education direction" by Dr. Monroe Richman, then board president.

When the district discovered it lacked enough teachers to complete the change, the instructors were brought back Sept. 5 as temporary, long-term substitutes. But their return is shrouded in doubt.

"We are very upset that of the idea of them being brought back on a temporary basis," said Trade-Tech Athletic Director Courtney Borio. "The decisions seem to change about every hour, and if their positions are revoked, we are right back into this layoff thing."

Lindsay Conner, a member of the district's board of trustees, said the classification as temporary employees is misleading.

"They are being asked to do a job," Conner said. "To suggest that this is a momentary thing where they're in today, gone tomorrow, is not the situation, in my opinion."

Although the layoffs in physical education have been rescinded, they will not be quickly forgotten.

"In essence, we are back to square one," said Marilynn Ladd, former athletic director at East Los Angeles College, who was rehired as a physical education and health education instructor at Los Angeles City College last Friday.

Added Ladd: "Most of the people laid off have been hired back. Nothing was accomplished. There didn't seem to be much need to lay us off in the first place. It shows the whole thing was kind of arbitrary."

Conner disagrees with that assessment.

"The fact is, this is the first time the district has undertaken the layoff process," he said. "No one had any precise expectation of how long it would take or what it would involve.

"We were aware of our needs as an educational institution, and we were aware of the fact that we had to restructure in order to be competitive. There was only one process we could take to accomplish that, and it was through layoffs."

Conner said the purpose of the layoffs was to get more teachers in growing academic areas such as English as a second language, business and mathematics--and away from areas such as physical education that had too many instructors.

"We had to reorganize our teaching program, which forced us to take certain actions that were not pleasant," he said. "That presented problems for us in athletics and physical education, but overall, the purpose of the layoff process has been well-served."

Conner said that by having more teachers in growing academic areas, the district has been able to serve more students. The district's enrollment is up by about 12% over 1985, he said.

Athletic officials argue that more students would be enrolled in physical education had there been no cuts. Further, they say the district is losing money because of its indecision.

At Pierce, for example, about 100 students played on the football team. Because each player was required to enroll in 12 units, they each brought the district $2,700 a year in state aid, according to officials. That meant the Pierce football team brought in about $270,000 in state funding.

Former Pierce Athletic Director Bob O'Connor said he estimated overhead expenses for running the team at $70,000--a profit of $200,000 for the district.

"There's no question they have lost money by dropping football at Pierce," O'Connor said.

Others in physical education also weren't buying the district's explanations.

Jim Fenwick quit as football coach at Pierce in February because of the uncertain future of athletics in the district. He now teaches at Valley College and coaches running backs as a volunteer at Cal State Northridge.

"It doesn't seem to bother them," Fenwick said of the district administration. "They have a business to run, but they don't seem to care how it affects people's lives. The whole thing seems to be backwards.

"It's been a long summer. We got out of school in May. I have a wife, two kids, a new house. There's been a lot of anxiety. I didn't know where I'd be teaching or if I'd be teaching.

"I'm embarrassed to tell people I work for the L.A. Community College District. If people ask me, I tell them I work for a private school."

Athletic officials are concerned that morale has been irreparably damaged within the district faculty.

"It's the end of a long, tragic process," Borio said. "But we lost some good people in that process. Progress stopped. We got so busy fighting that we couldn't do the job educationally that we wanted to.

"The loss of morale is significant. Mentally, it's been so destructive that it will be hard to snap right back."

Borio, as an athletic director and physical education department chairman at Trade-Tech, was involved in negotiations with the district daily. The ordeal has taken its toll, he said.

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