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Ontonagon area teachers to face layoffs

March 23, 2011

ONTONAGON - The Ontonagon Area Schools Board of Education voted Monday to distribute pink slips to eight of the district's teachers.

Two K-12 teachers as well as two elementary and four high school teachers will receive slips notifying them that they may not be offered contracts for 2011-12, superintendent Gray Webber said.

Webber said the move is a precautionary step and is in response to Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed budget.

"We're hoping to be able to recall a few of them but this is in response to the governor's budget cuts," he said. "(These are) absolutely necessary."

Webber said staffing won't be the only reductions at the district. The $700 per-pupil proposed cut will impact the district almost $900,000.

"We need to reduce $800,000 in our budget," he said. "That's only because we'll be using $100,000 that we have left in our fund balance."

In order to meet that $800,000, layoffs in staffing and various other district cuts are imminent.

"If our budget approves, we will recall as many as possible," he said.

The action was required now because the contractual agreement with the union requires layoff notices by March 31, he said.

Webber said the school district needs to balance its budget to avoid the state appointing an emergency financial manager who could come to the school and basically take over by dismantling the school board and doing whatever possible to bring the district into compliance.

In recent months, some Michigan school districts, including those in Detroit, have used an emergency financial manager.

In June, 44 Detroit schools, beset with falling enrollment, will close.

Terry LaJeunesse, Uniserv director with the Michigan Education Association in Hancock, and who fills in for the representative at the Ironwood location when needed, said it's better to be notified now of layoffs so the teachers have more time to look for work elsewhere.

"Most districts' standard practice is to do it by the first of April or end of March," he said.

If the school doesn't give a pink slip near the end of the school year and decides to lay off teachers after the summer, they have to show drastic cause for the layoff, LaJeunesse said.

"It's a lot easier to call them back than to lay them off after the fact," he said.

Although LaJeunesse called being laid off "devastating," it's worse to find out at the beginning of the new school year.

"This allows them time to get their resumes out and find out if there are any openings elsewhere," he said.

Still, the decision to lay off staff does not come easy.

"Boards don't like it and superintendents and principals agonize over it," he said.



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