Teachers, Janesville School Board confront major layoffs
Janesville School District layoffs
These are the number of layoff notices issued in each Janesville public school on Monday.
Van Buren: 5
Edison Middle: 12
Franklin Middle: 4
Marshall Middle: 12
Craig High: 17
Parker High: 18
CRES Academy: 1
Preschool (P4J): 1
In addition, 60 teachers will be transferred from their current jobs to other positions. This occurred because they were laid off from their current jobs but had seniority and certification that allowed them to bump less-senior teachers under the terms of their contract.
It hasn't been determined exactly where those 60 teachers will work next year, said human resources director Steve Sperry.
JANESVILLE The Janesville School District issued 125 layoff notices to teachers on Monday.
While some teachers might be called back, the impact is stark. The cuts include:
-- All the librarians.
-- All the counselors.
-- All the learning-support teachers.
About 50 positions were cut for enrollment reasons and would not be brought back unless enrollment rebounds unexpectedly in the fall.
But the layoffs made in order to balance the budget include:
-- 25 counselors.
-- 19 librarians.
-- 17 learning-support teachers.
-- Seven full-time and four part-time Title 1 reading teachers.
-- Two reading specialists.
-- One literacy coach.
The school board met Tuesday and heard from teachers about the duties of these support-staff members, who are key to district efforts to raise test scores and who boost classroom teachers with their time and technical expertise.
Poverty—a growing concern in the district—is not an excuse for low academic achievement, Franklin Middle School learning-support teacher Kathy Murray told the board, "but what will we do without the resources to help these students overcome the effects of poverty?"
Murray was speaking about learning-support teachers, but she could have been speaking for all of those laid off.
Parker High School sophomore Colin Murdy bemoaned the loss of counselors, who he said are crucial to the college aspirations of the brightest students.
"We need them," Murdy said. "Otherwise, the honors students will leave this district to find the services we need."
Just how many of the laid-off teachers might return is unknown. Much depends on how the board handles the rest of the budget adjustments needed to fill a projected $13.4 million shortfall in next year's budget.
The board discussed but took no action Tuesday on potentially millions of dollars of savings and revenue. These include non-teaching budget cuts and use of district financial reserves, known as the Fund 10 balance. Both are likely to come up when the board meets April 26.
Kevin Murray urged fellow board members to take action soon on using the fund balance so teachers can be called back before this school year ends.
"We all know we need to do this," Murray said.
Murray said one thing he wants to do with Fund 10 money is to avoid one item on the budget-cutting list, which would convert all custodians to part-time to avoid paying health insurance for them.
Speaking before the board meeting, teachers union President Dave Parr expressed frustration with the board.
"They could restore some of these positions, but they have to start making some decisions," Parr said.
The proposed state budget would not allow any significant tax increase, but the board could ask voters for permission to raise taxes higher in referendum.
Parr said he thinks the board will resist raising taxes: "I see no relief on the horizon."
Parr said he is telling teachers who received notices not to wait to see what might happen.
"I tell them all, go out, and if you see other work that you would like, take it. This is going to happen next year too," Parr said, although probably not to as many teachers.
Fundraiser plans moving forward
A fundraiser to help the Janesville School District through its budget difficulties could begin by the end of this week.
A steering committee for Save Janesville Schools, as it is called, met Monday.
A meeting on Thursday should finalize plans, said Mike Rundle, who is co-chairperson of the effort with Shari Faber.
Rundle is a retired firefighter and former school board member. Faber is a district parent and helps run her husband's veterinary business. Dave Riemer of Harris Ace Hardware is treasurer.
The Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin will handle all aspects of fundraising and money handling, including making sure it is used for the purposes intended, Rundle said.
The group has decided it will rely on the school board and administration to decide how to use the money by determining what positions and programs would best support district students, Rundle said.
Rundle said the group wants to keep the effort nonpartisan and non-political and focus only on maintaining the quality schools that Janesville is known for, in the belief that good schools are vital to a strong and health community.
The hope is to have an amount to contribute to the district by June, Rundle said. The group does not have a specific timeline, but members hope it can continue for two years.
The goal is $6 million, although that might not be achievable, Rundle said.
"But we don't want to sell ourselves short, and no matter what is raised, any amount can provide additional staff positions or programs rather than cuts," Rundle said.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
In other business Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:
-- Unanimously approved application for charter-school planning grants, a first step to converting three elementary schools to charter status. Former school board member Ted Kinnaman appealed unsuccessfully to the board not to put its trust in charter schools.
-- Learned that the job of retiring Parker High School Principal Steve Schroeder has been posted, and 17 have applied, including some internal candidates.
-- Voted unanimously to form a strategic planning committee. Retired Principal Mike Kuehne has volunteered to lead the effort, said board member Lori Stottler.
-- Heard about a new budget-cutting item they will consider: Another cut to high-school assistant principals. The board cut one, Rick Lehman, months ago. Now with the resignation in February of Shawn Mangar at Craig High, that would leave two assistant principals at each high school in September. The third assistant principal would not be replaced. Instead, a teacher would be appointed athletics director at each school. Now, an assistant principal performs the AD duties. The teacher would teach three periods, have two preparation periods, and be paid a stipend to do the AD duties on evenings and weekends. The principal and two assistants would take on all the discipline and attendance duties.
-- Learned that Franklin Middle School seventh-grade math teacher Holly Mauel has been named secondary teacher of the year by the state PTA.