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Published: Tuesday, 8/29/2006

TPS still filling vacant teaching positions

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Public Schools officials worked until the last minute to fill teaching positions before today's opening of the school year at most buildings.

Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers union, blasted the school district for not notifying laid off teachers if they would be recalled until the last several days.

She said the district laid off more teachers than it should have and subsequently was left looking for people to fill empty positions, most of which are in special-education, math, science, and foreign language.

"As of last Monday, there were 42 vacancies - a very high number five days before the start of the school year," Ms. Lawrence said. "There were 149 teachers laid off and, as of Friday, 97 were called back. On the surface, it's great news, but they never should have been laid off."

The district eliminated those teaching jobs as part of a $12 million cutback for the 2006-07 school year. The budget reduction, which was approved in June, also included closing five schools.

Many of those 149 jobs were eliminated through attrition.

Interim Superintendent John Foley acknowledged problems in filling positions but stressed that all schools will be open today, and a teacher will be in each classroom.

He said the number of vacant positions had been reduced as of yesterday afternoon to five on the high school level and about nine on the elementary level.

"They have been calling people through Friday and throughout [yesterday] to make sure they have every position filled," Mr. Foley said. Substitute teachers will be sent today to classrooms without a permanent teacher.

Mr. Foley said it is difficult to make sure teachers with the proper certifications are assigned to the right classrooms after the high number of layoffs the district made over the summer.

The process is further hampered, he said, because the district must be mindful of seniority when laying off, reassigning, and calling back laid-off teachers.

"We are required to call teachers on a priority list so we have to wait for the responses in some cases," he said.

The first day of school for students at Old West End Academy was Aug. 15; Early College High School started Aug. 21; Grove Patterson Academy opened Aug. 22, and all other district schools open today.



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