West Contra Costa Unified School District under fire for ‘mistakenly’ firing teachers | #teacher | #children | #kids

Three months after the West Contra Costa Unified School District school board decided not to lay off any employees, two union leaders for the district’s adult education teachers were abruptly — and, it turns out, erroneously — let go.

But what district officials are chalking up as a “mistake” has morphed into accusations of union-busting and harassment after negotiations over working conditions grew tense.

Ken Ryan and Kristen Pursley, the Adult School Teachers United union’s president and vice president, have taught English as a second language and citizenship for 28 and 25 years, respectively. They have advocated for years to finalize a contract, secure wage increases and sick leave, expand ESL courses and more.

When the two lead teachers met June 8 to start planning for next school year, a two-paragraph email arrived in their inboxes from the director of human resources for certificated employees, claiming that the pair were let go because they were part-time and “temporary,” meaning they could be terminated at any time.

The problem was, they both worked full-time, balancing their part-time teaching schedules with union responsibilities. A second email followed to acknowledge that they weren’t part-time but still asserted they were fired.

It wasn’t until Superintendent Chris Hurst emailed Pursley and Ryan three days later that the duo were told the notice was a clerical error and had been reversed.

While relieved to keep their jobs, Ryan, 66, and Pursley, 71, say they have not been given any explanation as to how the mixup occurred or why they were the only educators impacted.

“It just seems like what they really wanted was to get rid of us, and they thought this was a way to do it,” Pursley said. “I don’t mean to be jumping to conclusions, but it just doesn’t make sense to me that this is a mistake, when they so carefully made it twice.”

Raechelle Forrest, the district communications manager, said the district “take(s) this issue very seriously” but would not comment further on what happened, as there is an “ongoing investigation into the matter at the direct request of the two teachers who were affected.”

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