Spokane Public Schools shuffle teaching posts

FRIDAY, APRIL 30, 2010

18 school employees get layoff notices, allowing administration to redistribute staff

Eighteen Spokane Public Schools employees, mostly teachers, received layoff notices Thursday, but officials anticipate hiring all of them back.

The layoffs of the least-senior certified staff are necessary in order to shuffle staff around to “accommodate a unique enrollment situation,” said Staci Vesneske, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources.

District officials have projected 513 fewer students at the high school and middle school levels, and an increase of 127 elementary students.

The high school’s enrollment decline can be tracked to the city’s birthrate, school officials said. As a result, this year’s graduating class is large and the incoming ninth-grade class is much smaller. With elementary school enrollment increasing, the district anticipates the enrollment decline to reverse by the 2011-12 school year.

“Teachers at the high school level have limited certificates that only allow them to teach specific subjects,” Vesneske said. “Thus, they cannot teach elementary school. The layoff process allows the district to transfer teachers from the middle school level to the elementary level, which then creates subject-area middle school positions for the displaced high school teachers.”

Last year, the district handed layoff notices to 103 teachers, counselors and librarians because of budget uncertainties. All were hired back.

Vesneske emphasized that the layoffs this year are not related to the district’s budget.

Teachers, counselors and other certified staff first were given the opportunity to voluntarily transfer into other positions, but that was unsuccessful, officials said.

Because of union contracts, the district can’t just transfer the teachers; it can only be done through layoff and re-hire.

“We tried to be creative,” said Jenny Rose, the Spokane Education Association union president. But the layoff method adheres to the employment contract and “it saves jobs,” Rose said.

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