158 teachers to get layoff notices
April 28, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Issaquah School Board members voted unanimously to lay off 158 of its 1,097 teachers April 22, after district officials presented their reduction in force plan.Teachers can expect to receive layoff notices by May 1.
Their contract stipulates that layoffs are based on seniority. Teachers who fall from No. 1 to No. 902 on the seniority list are guaranteed positions next year. Teachers who are at or below No. 903 will receive layoff notices.
The positions of up to 195 — 17.8 percent — of the district’s teachers are likely to be eliminated. Thirty-seven teachers have already resigned or weren’t provided continuing contracts for next year.
“We are looking at a number, but we are also looking at people,” said board member Jan Woldseth. “I want to take a moment to realize the emotion behind this decision, the position we are in and take a moment to appreciate that this decision is impacting people’s livelihood, as well as the impact it will have on our classrooms.”
Several teachers at the board meeting waited in the audience for district officials to make the announcement. When that happened, a few younger teachers supported each other by silently sharing hugs and tears before leaving. Many of the older teachers and some administrators stayed, wading through employee lists to know who they’d have to inform the next morning.
After the district’s budget and enrollment numbers are finalized, several teachers who receive lay-off notices could be called back to work, said Jacob Kuper, chief of finance and operations for the district.
Callbacks are determined by specialty and seniority.
There are about 62 teachers with endorsements that are in hard-to-fill areas, like special education, who will likely get recalled. After the budget is done, district officials also hope to recall at least some of the remaining 96 teachers.
The recall will likely go on through the summer, said Ron Thiele, associate superintendent.
District officials made the cuts to combat an estimated $10.5 million reduction in state funding expected this year due to the state’s $9 billion budget gap, Kuper said.
If the district didn’t draw the line conservatively, officials may have guaranteed more teachers jobs than they could have afforded in the coming year.
“I hate to notify one more person than I need to, but as chief financial officer, I have the fiduciary responsibility to ensure the solvency of the district,” Kuper said.
Although, the state’s budget hasn’t been approved, the district’s contract with the teachers’ union stipulates that teachers must get first notice of potential layoffs by April 22.
“I think this is an extremely sad day for the students and public education system in our district,” said Neva Luke, president of the Issaquah Education Association. “It goes back to the fact that the Legislature has never accepted responsibility to fund public education. If funding for public education had been given along the way, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
District officials recommended making $2.17 million in additional cuts.
Those reductions will come from hours people work in the maintenance, operations and transportation departments, at the central and building administration levels, and who are educational assistants or secretaries.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this article at www.issaquahpress.com.