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Schools plan layoffs

May 26, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

In a move that some say will hurt students, the Washington County Board of Education plans to cut 27 part-time teacher aide positions this fall because of budget constraints.

Letters went out Friday to the elementary school employees who are part of the Title I federal grant program, warning them of temporarily layoffs.

School officials are hoping to place many, if not all, of the displaced instructional assistants in vacant positions that become available throughout the school system.

"I'm hoping this does not send shock waves throughout the system," said Phil Ray, director of human resources.

The positions are paid for through the county's $2.1 million share of federal Title I funds.

Although next year's Title I grant remains the same as this year, increased costs of salaries and health-care insurance made cuts necessary, school officials said.

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"Sometimes you have to do some things you really don't want to do," said John Festerman, director of elementary education.

Festerman said the loss of the teachers' aides will affect instruction at 10 schools that receive Title I money based on the number of children who receive free and reduced lunches.

"The people in those positions work with children on a daily basis. Many of these people worked with small groups and individuals to give them the extra assistance they need," he said.

Teachers will miss the help as well, he said.

Bonnie Parks, president of the Educational Support Personnel Local 1, is also concerned about the impact on students.

"The needs of the children are still going to be there no matter what or who is cut," she said.

Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett Jr. hopes the impact will be minimal.

"I hope the instructional program that we're giving kids is the same," he said. "I know it's almost impossible to say that under this situation."

Parks disagrees with how the school board has handled the cuts. One assistant who has worked for the school district for 11 years has been put on notice of the layoffs, while others with less than three months experience have not gotten letters, she said.

"These people are dedicated and have devoted a good part of their life, even though it may be only three and a half hours a day," she said.

Ray said the school board has to follow complicated rules for notifying employees of the possible layoffs.

Washington County has 189 full-time instructional assistant positions, including some in special education, and 37 part-time special education instructional assistants.

"We've got some room there, given turnover," Ray said.

The administration will try to spread the cuts fairly among the schools - Bester, Salem Avenue, Winter Street, Fountaindale, Cascade, Hancock, Hickory, Eastern, Pangborn and Lincolnshire, Festerman said.

The part-time teacher's aides work between 1.5 hours and 5.75 hours a day. They receive no benefits.

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