Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District offices (File photo)

Santa Monica teachers facing layoffs were given a temporary reprieve this week when the school board ran out of time to finalize the layoff process.

The first meeting of the month was held during Teacher Appreciation Week and the irony was not lost on participants who spoke in the digital event about the district’s plan to cut some staff.

“I can tell you right now — even though I don’t know who’s speaking tonight and I don’t know who’s going to be in public comment — I can tell you that 90% of what they’re going to talk about is the importance of their relationship with the teacher and the importance of a relationship between a teacher and a parent,” said Sarah Braff, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association.

Braff said student success is often dictated by how closely they connect with their educators.

“So, how may we show our appreciation to our teachers? I don’t think it needs to be with thank-yous and pats on the back and $5 cards to Starbucks. I think it needs to start with rescinding the layoffs of teachers,” she said.

The district began the layoff process by issuing notices to 49 teachers. After 19 notices were rescinded, 30 teachers could still be on the chopping block.

Superintendent Ben Drati said the district was already deficit spending by $11 million prior to the pandemic and he doesn’t know of a district in the state that’s not having layoff conversations.

The board is required to take final action on the item before May 15 but their agendized vote was delayed this week.

Mark Kelly, SMMUSD’s director of student services, said one of the final steps in the layoff process will have to wait to be completed because there was not enough time to consider an important decision prior to the meeting.

Teachers have the right to appeal their layoff notices to a judge if they feel someone will fewer qualifications was retained.

“However, it is likely that we are going to recommend that the board adopt (the resolution) so we’re going to ask that you schedule a special meeting next week so that you can consider the resolution and adopt the administrative law judges decision,” Kelly said.

Braff added on Friday that teachers recognize the need to adjust teacher-student ratios to appropriate levels. “And yet, we are also hopeful that we will be able to retain most, if not all teachers, that were given RIF notices at the start of the process.”

A number of items pertaining to district construction projects and a new grading policy were also on the agenda this week.

SMMUSD’s special meeting of the board is scheduled to occur Tuesday, May 12.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to parent Laura Ford. It was Claudia Seizer, Santa Monica Malibu PTA Council President, who originally said, “Council feels that it is ultimately the work of the District to ensure that all parents understand the nuances of these reductions to our teaching staff,” during the board meeting.