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Woodville to lay off one third of its teaching staff
Decision to hand out pinks slips a tough one
WOODVILLE — Approximately one third of Woodville teachers will get something pink today but it has nothing to do with Valentines Day.
Following a long closed session Tuesday night during its regularly scheduled board meeting, Woodville School District trustees voted to approve the layoffs of nine to 10 teachers.
The layoff notices, often referred to as pink slips, will be handed out today, said Superintendent Dago Garcia.
“We will be hand-delivering them in the morning. Typically it is done in March, but I’m doing it this week. I think it’s important for us to move the process along. If I was a teacher, I would want to know right away,” Garcia said. “It’s hard to do but it is one of those things you have to do. It’s not going to be fun but we have to live within our means.”
The news was taken quietly by the eight or nine teachers who waited for the board to return from closed session Tuesday night, Garcia said and called the silence “eerie.”
“A month ago, I started telling them this was coming — that there was no way out of this one,” Garcia said. “My suggestion to them was to start looking and not to sit around pretending it is not going to happen. I don’t think it will hit them until we stand in front of them with a notice.”
The small, one-school district has 29 instructors but must cut the number down to 19 classroom and one band teacher.
When he arrived, Garcia said, the school’s average daily attendance, or ADA, was 525, but over time the school has lost students because it was determined some of them belonged to the Pleasant View School District in Poplar.
“When I came on, we had 32 teachers,” Garcia said. “I said, ‘Hey, we can’t keep this up. We’re losing a lot of money.’ We got down to 510 ADA and I told them that if we got under 500, there was no way we can keep this level of teachers.”
The ADA now stands at 484.
“The more kids we lose, the more staff we have to cut,” Garcia said. “We have already cut down our administration. Our administration team is 4.5 people. Most schools our size have six. We can’t cut more. The only place to cut is teaching staff.”
Big districts occasionally offer pink slips in March, Garcia said, but almost always, re-extend the offer of work to employees before the new school year begins.
“For us, unfortunately, it is close to impossible to take them back,” Garcia said. “We’re still looking at deficit spending continuing for the next couple of years. It took a number of years for us to get to where we are, so it will take two to three years to get out. We’re hoping to be down to zero deficit spending, and in the black, in three years.”
Garcia stressed that the cuts will not hurt the students.
“We will still have small classes,” Garcia said. “The board didn’t think we were hurting the kids. It’s difficult for the board, too. They know these teachers. Some of them were their kids’ teachers. But if we do not do it, in December we will get a negative certification.”
Garcia said he has been working on the layoff process for the past six months — determining who has the most seniority, who has all the required certification, and which teachers are needed. The board also looked at the possibility of offering a “Golden Handshake” — early retirement — to senior staff.
“We discussed the Golden Handshake but the board was not interested because we couldn’t be guaranteed any savings,” Garcia said.
One teacher did stand and said he would retire if he was offered two years of pay and $25,000.
“It just didn’t make sense. He will be retiring soon anyway. It only makes sense if a person is five to six years away and we save all that money,” Garcia said. “Otherwise, there is no savings. I agree with the board on this one.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.