Lawrence school district administrators on Friday said they expected to not offer contracts next year to up to 30 teachers once they finish evaluating $4.6 million in cuts and staffing needs at schools.
But that number is still in flux as principals are making decisions for next year, said David Cunningham, the district’s division director of human resources for certified staff.
The district did start notifying certified staff members last week. Chief operations officer Frank Harwood said the decisions are a mixture of budget-related cuts and the district’s annual evaluation process.
Due to the state’s budget crisis, board members in March approved cuts that included raising the district’s student-teacher ratio by one — meaning the district needed less teaching positions — and cutting programs like learning coaches that would force tenured teachers back into the classroom.
“The reasons that these things are happening have nothing to do with (teachers) not being effective or that the programs we have aren’t good,” Harwood said. “It all comes back to the budget.”
Board members and administrators had hoped attrition would account for most of the cuts, but they are working through a complicated process of moving teachers around the district. The need for more than a dozen learning coaches — who are tenured teachers — and other employees such as librarians to return to the classroom means they will bump out non-tenured teachers.
To attain tenure a certified employee must have served three full years in the district or two full years if they have tenure in another district.
School board president Scott Morgan said the job cuts were a reality due to the state’s budget crisis and decisions the board made.
“It’s not surprising. We had some hopes through retirements that he number could be kept smaller. The reality is it’s smaller than it would have been,” Morgan said.
This year Lawrence has about 950 certified staff members — mostly teachers but this includes other positions like counselors and librarians.
As of last week the district had more than 40 certified staff members who will leave the district next year either through retirement or to take other jobs. But district administrators said the process was complicated by having tenured teachers return to the classroom from programs that were cut, like the learning coaches or libraries.
The district has to place those experienced teachers in spots where they are licensed to teach, which causes the district to either shuffle teachers around or leaves a non-tenured teacher without a position.
“If that’s an opening that works out really well, but there weren’t enough of those places,” Harwood said.
Valerie Johnson-Powell, a Lawrence High speech pathologist and president of the Lawrence Education Association, said Friday she had heard from 23 teachers whose contracts won’t be renewed.
“If these young people leave and don’t come back in about 15 years, we’re not going to have a strong enough experienced teaching force. It’s worrisome,” Johnson-Powell said.
She said because some schools have several retirements and others don’t, dozens of teachers will be given an “involuntary transfer,” meaning they will teach in different schools in the district next year.
The LEA also plans to partner with the district and KU Credit Union and offer job skills training for teachers who are cut or retiring, Johnson-Powell said.
Board members are expected to take official action on not renewing contracts for the teachers at their April 29 meeting.