February 24, 2009

East Providence Meets the March 1 Deadline

Monique Chartier

... to issue teacher layoff notices.

Tonight, the School Committee voted 4-1 to approve the recommendation by Superintendent Mario Cirillo to send lay off notices, effective September 1, to fifty five teachers.

Most of the time, in most cities and towns, only a fraction of those receiving notices are actually laid off. School Committee member Steve Stantos emphasized

This is not something anybody wants to do. ... There are some excellent teachers on this list. Hopefully, we do get them back.

But by way of pointing out that this may well not happen, Director of Human Resources Lonnie Barham observed out that "we have not had this kind of fiscal situation either".

One final point. Upon being asked the criteria for the layoffs, Mr. Barham replied, "Least senior teachers". It was noted that this was pursuant to the terms of the (expired) contract.

[H/T Will Ricci at Ocean State Republican for breaking this news late Sunday night.]

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Thanks for coming to EP tonight, for what was certainly one of the quickest school committee meetings we've ever had. I clocked it at just over 40 minutes, including comments. At least it was a quick execution (pardon the pun).

I was a little surprised to hear tonight, that they had originally intended to send layoff notices to 106 teachers, not just the 55.

They need to know unequivocally that if they don't agree to the concessions previously offered to them -- primarily any way to save $3.1 million this fiscal year -- the vast majority of those 55 teachers will lose there jobs in the fall. They know who they are, and they have an absolutely clear opportunity to convince their union, between now and the fall, to see the light.

As for the layoffs by seniority, it's unfortunate that we couldn't have gotten rid of some of the longer term, and therefore, more highly paid teachers. Alas, live by the seniority sword, die by the seniority sword.

As I stated earlier on the OSR (thanks for the plug):

From what I understand, the reason for the relatively low number in East Providence (there are approximately 500 teachers employed at present), is that 54 is pretty close to the real number of teachers that will actually be laid off — barring any significant cost-saving developments in the interim (hint, hint). Simply put, they want to give those individuals the maximum opportunity possible to find employment elsewhere — OR — to convince their union to accept the school committee’s previously-offered cost savings measures.

At an average cost of $85,000 per teacher (about $65,000 for pay, plus $20,000 for benefits), in order to save $3.1 million — if a new contract is not approved in the interim — they would need to layoff about 35 teachers. To save $4.2 million, it would require the layoffs of about 49 teachers. Laying off all 54 teachers would amount to a savings of about $4.5 million. Of course, since all teachers are not paid the same — many make much more than the “average” — the number of layoffs required to save a specific amount would largely depend upon which teachers got laid off, based on the “step” they are at on the pay scale.

Currently, the city is projected to have a year-end deficit of about $10 to $11 million, including $4.5 million from last fiscal year, about $4.2 million projected for this fiscal year, and about $2.5 million more, if the recently announced cut to local aid goes through. This isn’t even factoring in that the city may have difficulty just making regular payroll in the not so distant future. The school committee has asked for concessions of about $3.1 million from the teachers through their union, thus far to no avail. Since the union has not been cooperative in that regard, the school committee has unilaterally implemented cost savings measures on their own, including a 5% pay raise rollback and a 20% health care co-pay. Since the “unilateral implementation” issue will shortly be before the State Labor Relations Board, then will very likely be appealed to the Superior Court, and perhaps the Supreme Court after that, there is not a lot of certitude that the $3.1 million of cost savings will actually be realized this fiscal year — unless other options are made available. Deferring the deficit to yet another year is simply not an option.

P.S. Since the layoffs will be by seniority, the average pay of those teachers to be laid off presumably is somewhat less than the over all "average pay" for all teachers in E.P., therefore requiring more individual teachers to be laid off, in order to make up for the difference. In that case, to save $3.1 million for example, it would now necessitate the layoffs of more than the 35 teachers I quoted in my example above. I would guess it would be nearly 40 now to achieve the same cost savings.

Posted by: Will at February 24, 2009 11:20 PM
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