Saline school board approves 63 teacher layoffs to save $1.5 million
The unanimous vote at Tuesday’s meeting will save the district an estimated $1.5 million, according to Superintendent Scot Graden.
However, 63 positions aren't expected to be axed. The district plans to eliminate 20 teaching positions overall to realize those savings, but 63 notices went out due to the contractual process involved in cutting the positions.
School board PresidentÂ David Friese read the names of the 63 teachers Tuesday who were notified earlier in the morning. He concluded by saying it was one of the hardest decisions he has had to make in his 38 years in education.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
The layoffs are part of the district’s effort to address a $3 million budget shortfall.Â
Assistant SuperintendentÂ Steve LaatschÂ said the district estimates eliminating 20 full-time positions.Â The district sent out 63 layoff notices because of teacher contract rules on seniority and federal mandates on who can teach what subjects and grades. It's a somewhat complex system in which teachers in axed positions can bid on other jobs they're "highly qualified" for, thus bumping lower seniority staff.
Only TrusteeÂ Lisa Slawson spoke after the list was read. She said everyone in the region is affected by the economy, and urged the Saline Education Association to put the kids' and community’s interests ahead of the Michigan Education Association.
“I hope that we can come together and do what’s best for our kids,” she said. “Because we know, as sure as we know our names, that what is best is for your child is to have these people in your classroom in September.”
Tim Heim, the teachers union president, said the union and district have signed a contractÂ that provides 2.5-percent pay raises for Saline’s teachers in the next two school years.Â
He said the local union is an entity of the Michigan Education Association and is governed by its rules on reopening contracts. The MEA has only allowed one of 32 districts that have requested opening negotiations on signed contracts to do so.
Heim added no further formal negotiations are scheduled between the union and district, but he and Graden continue to meet informally to “work toward a common goal.”
Heim expressed concern that parents have begun to look at teachers as a funding source as they try to maintain a high level of education in Saline.
“Teachers are not a funding source for the school; the funding comes from the state through taxation ... but I think teachers across the state are looking at how they can provide financial assistance, more than they have done so in the past,” he said.
Parents who spoke during public comment largely criticized the teachers union for not opening negotiations and urged the two sides to work out a deal for their kids’ sake.
“The bottom line is we don’t have the money to pay the teachers another increase,” Kim Birkel said.
Dawn Ducca, the Houghton Elementary School PTO coordinator, said she was “outraged” the teachers union is filing a grievance over the district removing printers from the classroom. The two sides debated the issue at length on Tuesday following the approval of the layoffs.
“I don’t understand why the union is now demanding that a cost-saving measure must be reversed,” she said.
Graden said the district has already taken printers out of the rooms and has budgeted for $5,000 in savings for the remainder of the year. He estimates another $325,000 in savings on replacement costs.
Saline resident Paul Borger said the district and teachers union should examine a one-time 8-percent cut, which isn’t out of line with what others in the community have experienced. He asked for a show of hands from those who have experienced such a pay cut since the economy soured. Around half of the roughly 150 people in attendance raised their hands.
“It seems like a pretty simple solution," he said. “But we have two entities that can’t come together and solve 8-percent.”
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.