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Archive for Wednesday, April 3, 2002

District begins notifying teachers of layoffs

April 3, 2002

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Budget cuts have begun to hit home for some Lawrence public school teachers.

In the next week, officials will notify the equivalent of 20 to 30 full-time, nontenured teachers that their contracts won't be renewed for the 2002-'03 school year. Some of their positions will be filled by the 14 tenured elementary school counselors whose positions will be eliminated in response to the district's budget crunch.

"My evaluation was wonderful," said Pat Hays, a Southwest Junior High teacher who was told Friday that her contract won't be renewed. "It was probably the best I've ever received. This was through no fault of my own."

The nonrenewed contracts stem from the $4.7 million in fee increases and spending cuts approved by the school board last month. Though the state budget is still in limbo, Supt. Randy Weseman said schools will face cuts under any scenario being considered by the Legislature.

Mary Rodriguez, the school district's executive director of human resources, said officials this week will verbally notify those teachers who won't have jobs in the fall.

The school board will consider a resolution April 22 that would make the cuts official. State law requires written notification of nonrenewal by May 1.

Rodriguez, who said other districts are beginning to make similar notifications, said a favorable state budget or an increase in federal money might allow some teachers to retain their positions or be offered positions elsewhere in the district.

"It's very frustrating," Rodriguez said. "It would be great to know how much money we were getting before we had to make these decisions. It's painful."

Some of the teachers are being removed to make way for elementary school counselors with tenure to return to the classroom to teach. The school board eliminated 14 elementary counselor positions in the district.

Rodriguez said the teaching positions must match the counselors' certification requirements, but after that the decision not to renew contracts would be based on longevity with the district.

"The last hired will be the first to be nonrenewed," she said.

That apparently was what happened to Hays, who has taught 20 years but was in her first year in the Lawrence district. She was a half-time teacher of young adult literature and communications at Southwest Junior High.

Though she said she "wasn't totally shocked" her contract wasn't renewed, she said it was a sign of the severity of the budget situation.

"I've taught for 20 years, and it's never happened before," she said. "This is really a crisis."

Hays said she was especially worried for teachers who didn't have spouses contributing to their family income.

"It's discouraging," she said. "I wonder if people will want to pick up and teach again."

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