By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — 115 Baltimore City Public Schools staff members are being notified Thursday that they will be laid off, for the first time in a decade as the school system try to balance a 1.3 billion-dollar budget for next year.

Only 13 classroom teachers were among the layoffs, with 32 of the staff members working in the district and the remaining 68 in non-teaching positions among 83 schools.

The original budget cuts considered laying off over 1,000 employees, but officials were able to get that number down to 115. School district officials say guidance counselors and librarians were the ones cut.

Thursday, the 115 were met in the classrooms and offices, handed a green folder, offered counseling and told they’d be let go.

This comes after the Board of School Commissioners approved the budget last week.

“Very tough day,” said Jimmy Gittings, president of the administrators union.

“It’s been a very distracting day, disturbing day, humiliating day,” said Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

“If they lay off teachers the our kids aren’t learning,” one parent said.

For English, it’s not just the fact that some will soon be jobless; it’s how the process was carried out.

“They’re going into the school and then they counsel them about being laid off. It’s something that’s going to disrupt the school, the students, and the families,” English said. “If you tell me you have vacancies, why should we lay off people off then? Why not wait and see who retires and then place some of these people in the positions that are vacant?”

Officials said the number of layoffs was further reduced after exhaustive analysis of teachers and their experience, which allows some of them to be re-assigned.

“Evaluation is one of critical factors we need to look at as we make decisions in who is being laid off,” said Alison Perkins-Cohen, chief of staff for Baltimore City Public Schools.

“They knew the system wasn’t going to lay off 1000 people, it couldn’t survive laying off 1000 people,” Gittings said. “We originally had 47 administrators that were going to be laid off and we got it cut down to 39, 24 of those are assistant principals.”

But state and city officials pledged nearly $60 million to help with the budget.

“We anticipate having more vacancies and we hope we can keep bringing this number down,” Perkins-Cohen said.

Officials expect some staff to resign and retire up until July 15 to open up jobs for some of the staff to be hired back.

The district said they will work hard to place as many as those impacted by these layoffs into new positions.

Baltimore City Public Schools released the following statement:

“The final number is significantly lower than originally projected. Early in the budget development process, more than 1,000 staff members were anticipated to lose employment. With the advocacy of parents, students, staff members, and other stakeholders and the support of city and state lawmakers, the district received $59 million in additional resources toward closing a projected $130 million budget gap, which in turn lessened the reduction in force to a projected maximum of 300 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. Along with cuts in other areas, the district’s final approved budget includes funding for 233.5 fewer FTEs in 2017-18 than in the current 2016-17 fiscal year.

“The actual number of layoffs was further reduced through an exhaustive analysis of the assignments, experience, and certifications of all district teaching staff, which identified teachers in subject areas where layoffs were occurring who could be reassigned to positions in other areas where they had expertise. This, along with the elimination of some vacant positions, explains the difference between the 233.5 reduction in positions and the 115 staff members actually receiving layoff notifications. The district anticipates that new vacancies will continue to be created through July 15—the date by which teachers and school administrators choosing to resign must inform the district that they will not return for the upcoming school year—meaning that some of those receiving layoff notifications today may be called back to positions for 2017-18. In some cases, call-backs will occur before June 30, so that no interruption in employment will occur.

“The 115 staff members currently fill a range of positions across the district. Thirty-four are members of the Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU), among whom 21 serve as librarians or school counselors. Thirty-nine are members of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association (PSASA), with 24 of these serving as assistant principals. Layoff notifications are also being delivered to 26 staff members who belong to the Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel (PSRP) unit of the BTU, 11 support staff who belong to the City Union of Baltimore (CUB), and 5 district office managers who do not belong to a bargaining unit.

“All affected staff members are being notified in person today of their loss of employment. Job-seeking resources, counseling, and other support are being provided to all affected employees. Over the next weeks, the district will continue to work to place as many affected staff members as possible in new positions that become vacant before the beginning of the new school year.”

RELATED: City Schools Releases New Budget, Less Than 300 Layoffs Proposed

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English released the following statement on the layoffs: 

“The approach the District is taking of going into the schools and interrupting a teacher’s day to tell them that they have been laid off is unprecedented. This is a humiliating and truly shocking act that comes on the heels of a stressful semester. The actions of the District will upend classroom instruction and student performance today and for the remainder of the school year.

“It is incomprehensible to me that the District would lay off any loyal, highly-functioning employee, who has played a key role in ensuring our children’s success when they have nearly two-hundred vacant positions that need to be filled.”

The job cuts bring a third straight year of layoffs to the school district.

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Rick Ritter


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