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When layoff notices went out to 338 teachers in the Kenosha Unified over the weekend almost no school in the district was immune to the effects of what the administration proposed and the School Board decided this week to do in order to cut costs.
The layoff notices went to teachers at every school except Jeffrey Elementary and The Brompton School, an elementary charter school, and Hillcrest School, which has an alternative academic program for middle and high school students and a program for students with special needs.
According to Unified officials, teachers receiving notices were from 48 schools and programs, including 4-year-old kindergarten, athletics, Head Start at the Cesar Chavez Center, Kenosha County Detention Center, Title I and P-5, special education, instruction and professional development.
On Tuesday, the board approved the layoff of 212 full-time equivalent teachers, accounting for more than $17.4 million of the nearly $20 million the district hopes to save by reducing a total of 247 staff members next year. The staffing cuts would help the district to close the bulk of the $33 million shortfall in its budget due to anticipated losses in state education funding and the district’s own structural deficit.
But some have questioned why the district issued so many layoff notices. Gary Vaillancourt, district spokesman, acknowledged that the 212 full-time equivalent teaching positions did not equate with 338 teachers being given notices.
“The reason for the 338 notices, is that they had to give notice in order to identify enough positions to accommodate high seniority teachers that will be affected by reductions in teaching staff,” he said.
Layoffs of teachers are handled by seniority, meaning those who have less experience are likely to be let go first. Those with more years of experience working in the district are retained and given preference, if they also have the necessary qualifications such as through licensing or certification or both, to apply for positions left open as a result of layoffs.
Kenosha Education Association Executive Director Joe Kiriaki said that 232 actual teachers, which includes part-time instructors, would account for the 212 full-time equivalent positions and the amount the district is trying to save.
He said he doesn’t believe that district needed to issue 338 notices.
“When you look at the people who got the layoffs, with many of them, their seniority goes back to August of 2007,” he said. “They’re like 400 to 500 from the bottom of the list. I’m not sure once you work through it all, you’re going to need (all the layoffs) and you’ll find it wasn’t necessary.”
Knowing how many teachers the district needs for staffing schools next year is essential as “arena scheduling,” the meeting in which teachers apply for open positions, is expected to take place May 11.
Kiriaki said his concern is that they know how many positions are open, being eliminated and “what’s not changing.” On Wednesday, the union and the district’s human resources department met to discuss logistics of the upcoming arena meeting.
“We’re working with one another to work through this list to avoid confusion and frustration,” he said. “ I want to give them credit for that. We’re off to a good start to try and figure out how to minimize the frustration to the greatest extent that we can.”