Teachers await news on possible layoffs

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More than 20,000 California public school teachers are waiting to find out within a month or so whether the preliminary layoff notices they received will become permanent. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez spoke to one such teacher in Orange County; he brings us this profile.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: During the first part of the day Dale Miller teaches health at Loara High School in Anaheim. In the afternoon he's the school's certified athletic trainer. He uses special stretches, a few machines, and other techniques to help varsity athletes nurse sprained ankles, sore hamstrings, and bruised fingers.

[Sound of scooping ice into a bag]

Dale Miller: We go through a lot of ice, a lot of tape, just trying to get things back up and patch them up.

Guzman-Lopez: On this day there's a line out the door. Varsity softball player Taylor Martin has come in to have Miller look at a nasty purple left eyebrow. The white of her eye is bloodshot.

Taylor Martin: I got popped in the face with a ball a couple of weeks ago and he massaged it out, which he's likely going to do tomorrow, hopefully. I don't know, he just works hard. He has a lot of kids in here all the time. He's a good trainer.

Guzman-Lopez: Dale Miller was a football defensive lineman for four years at his high school in Oregon. He credits his athletic trainer there for a lot of what he learned on and off the field. So to follow in his footsteps, Miller completed a kinesiology degree at Chapman University five years ago.

Miller: I was looking forward to a secure job that would still enable me to use my athletic training and give me the opportunity to work with athletes and students and make a difference in their lives.

Guzman-Lopez: He's worked at Loara High for two years. In his first year, he received a Reduction In Force notice, a preliminary layoff notice. He took it personally. The school district rescinded it. He got another this year.

Miller: I think it's easier to swallow this year with the state of the overall economy and knowing that some of my students, their parents are losing jobs and my neighbors at my house, they may be losing their jobs.

Guzman-Lopez: Miller takes care of non-critical injuries during varsity games. Many students don't have medical insurance, he says, so he's the only professional around who can nurse their sprains.

He's also a counselor of sorts, helping students regain their confidence after an injury. But he says his own confidence is shaky – undermined by the possibility that his students may not have a physical trainer next year.

The upside is that he's heard a lot of kind words in the last month. That leads him to believe he's doing his high school mentor proud.

Miller: If I am gone, I will be missed, and it's not just my services that are going to be missed. It's me as an individual, as a person.

Guzman-Lopez: Miller's one of 73 teachers given preliminary layoff notices in the Anaheim Union High School District. It's got until May 15th to notify which ones it'll rescind. Expecting the best but anticipating the worst, the district's teachers union has walked its members through the unemployment benefits process.