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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Bedford board to give layoff notices

TEMPERANCE - The Bedford school board, during a special meeting last night, adopted a resolution to notify teachers of coming layoffs.

The district's contract with the 310 members of the Bedford Education Association requires it to notify members of staff reductions by May 1, Superintendent Jon White said.

Other union members who could be bumped out of their jobs by more senior personnel must be notified as well.

School officials said 13 staff positions, many of them teachers, will be affected by the layoffs. Mr. White said that number could change with resignations and retirements.

After the meeting at Monroe Road Elementary School, Mr. White said he believes actual layoffs will be minimal, but didn't want to say how many of the 13 positions could be saved.

Board members said they felt they had to make a decision to notify teachers, even though the budget process was not completed, because of the contract.

The school district's operating budget does not have to be approved until June.

The district has about 5,300 students, a number that has fallen in recent years.

That, plus rising costs for insurance premiums, retirements, and fuel and energy, are driving the cutbacks, Mr. White said.

The district's projected revenue, which includes an estimate of $7,100 per pupil, is $45.8 million for the next school year, Mr. White said. Its projected expenses are $48.1 million.

"We just have to get a handle on those expenses," he said before the meeting.

Mr. White said the district has cut $6 million in four years and taken money from its rainy-day fund to cover shortfalls.

"We are coming up short," he said. "We have to address this."

School board members said they plan to look at proposals offered by teachers in hopes of avoiding layoffs.

Colleen Jan, president of the Bedford Education Association, the union representing teachers, said the district could have asked the union to reopen its contract with the district so the notification deadline could have been moved back. She and other teachers complained that principals were telling teachers at their schools who would receive notices before the meeting, suggesting that last night's vote was a "done deal."

"This was a meaningless meeting," Ms. Jan told the board after the vote.

Ms. Jan and several other teachers said they were particularly upset about a flyer that was circulated at the special meeting, describing Bedford Public Schools "financial facts" that said if the teacher's union had accepted a proposed buyout, 25 senior members would have received early retirement, averting layoffs.

She displayed a letter addressed to her from Wes Berger, assistant superintendent of human resources, dated March 27, that stated "layoffs would be minimal" if the buyouts were accepted.

The district did issue pink slips two years ago, but everyone was called back, he added.

The proposed layoffs would take effect June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The average teacher salary is about $50,000 to $55,000, Mr. White said.



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