BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Anthony Avery is one of the more than 400 teachers and other Baltimore City school employees who received sudden notice they will be laid off just days from now. He was told October 2 will be his last day.
“I’m a computer teacher. Right now, we’re virtually learning. It’s crazy to me that my students won’t have the one person who can help them strengthen their skills in technology during the time when they need their technology skills to be top-notch to navigate this pandemic,” Avery told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.
The employees—some of whom work full-time hours—are classified as temporary by Baltimore schools.
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“It might seem like a short-term win, but in the long run, everyone loses,“ he said. “Teachers are essential workers. We are not expendable. We are not disposable.“
Their jobs are being cut as the schools’ C-E-O fears a more than $20 million budget shortfall.
As WJZ reported last week, the system is freezing hiring and warned in a letter of more cuts ahead.
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) September 18, 2020
Avery—who teaches at Hamilton Elementary Middle School—worries about his students.
“Children don’t do well with that sudden transition,” he said.
Baltimore’s Health Commissioner urges people to wear their masks appropriately—covering mouth AND nose—and avoid crowds. @wjz
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) September 23, 2020
Kate Sam has a daughter at the same school and was stunned by the layoffs.
“This is really heartbreaking,“ Sam said. “The term ‘temp’ is disingenuous to how integral these staffers are. The staffers have been here for years, and it’s like losing members of our family.“
She plans to pressure the CEO to reconsider, but she says lawmakers also need to be held accountable.
“This is not something the school board and Dr. Santelises should have to bear alone. This is the result of years of disinvestment in our educational system,“ she said. “Now is not the time to further disinvest in education. Now is the time children should come first and not last.“
Avery hopes a last-minute deal can save these hundreds of jobs. If not, he fears the city’s students will pay a high price for short-term savings.
“I’m not angry at the city,“ he said. “I’m just disappointed at where we are. You can’t tell me there’s not another solution we can find.“
A rally in support of the educators is tentatively being planned for next Wednesday at city school headquarters on North Avenue.