Friday, Sep 30, 2016
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Education

Cuts of 35 in Monroe schools gets board's OK

MONROE — The Monroe Board of Education voted Tuesday night to eliminate about 35 positions, including 20 classroom teachers, and agreed to enter into talks with an outside company to privatize the district's janitorial services.

The $3.2 million in cuts unanimously approved by the board are part of the district's efforts to offset a projected $5.6 million deficit for next school year.

In addition to teachers, two assistant principals, a central office administrator, administrative support staff, secretaries, and supervisory janitorial positions were trimmed from the budget, which must be balanced before June 30.

The job eliminations and other cuts were approved without discussion in front of a standing-room audience after the board received the budget reduction plan from the administration in a public work session before the board meeting.

In March the board issued pink slips to nearly 200 teachers and 3 administrators. The notifications affected some teachers who have been with the district for 10 years.

Nikki Klonaris, president of the 366-member Monroe City Education Association, said she hoped the impact of the layoffs would be softened through retirements.

“We do anticipate being smaller next year,” she said in an interview outside the meeting. “I am hoping that a bulk of these eliminations will be achieved through attrition.”

She said retirements as well as the classes and programs the district keeps through the budget process would determine which teachers ultimately are laid off.

The resolution to negotiate with Sodexo Corp. to provide custodial services— a controversial issue because of the impact it could have on the unionized workers now doing the work — was approved 4-3.

Board member Larry VanWasshenova, who voted against contract talks with Sodexo, urged tabling the resolution for at least two weeks and instead have the administration enter into talks with the employees' union.

Tom Tippery, the union president, said after the meeting the school district turned down offers in wage-and-health concessions that would have resulted in as much as $350,000 in savings for the school system.

Mr. Tippery said 20 of the 39 custodians, whose average hourly wage is $14, have been with the district more than 20 years.

If the school system contracts with Sodexo, school officials have said, the company will be required to hire current employees and must pay them their current wage and provide the same health benefits.

However, the company wouldn't pay into the state retirement system on behalf of the employees, effectively freezing their pensions for the remainder of their employment with the district.

Mr. Tippery said the board was cutting the deficit on the backs of the lowest-paid employees. “They always pick the fruit closest to the bottom of the tree,” he said.

Contact Mark Reiter at:markreiter@theblade.comor 419-724-6199.

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