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Published: Monday, 6/28/2010

TPS teachers OK cutting 268 jobs

BY BRIDGET THARP
AND MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Francine Lawrence, left, president of the teachers union and Toledo school Superintendent John Foley, right. Francine Lawrence, left, president of the teachers union and Toledo school Superintendent John Foley, right.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Toledo Public Schools will eliminate almost 10 percent of its teaching staff and allow class sizes to swell next year in order to erase an estimated $39 million deficit and start the fiscal year in the black.

The Toledo Federation of Teachers voted Saturday in favor of concessions that include the elimination of 237 classroom teachers and 31 paraprofessional positions, a 1 percent pay cut, and increased contributions to health-care costs, said Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers.

Both of the district's other unions - American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel - last week approved concessions, including elimination of about 30 administrative employees.

"Thirty-nine million in cuts doesn't mean we're fine. We're balanced, but these have been very deep and difficult cuts to make," Superintendent John Foley said. "People are going to see increased class size. People are going to see a reduction in the services that we've provided in the past. … All of these cuts are going to impact students, and all are going to impact students in ways we wouldn't like to see happen."

He declined to provide further details of the concessions pending board action.

The school board will consider the concessions at a special meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday. The board is required by law to have a balanced budget by Wednesday.

All three unions voted to support the money-saving concession packages.

On Thursday, 1,037 members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees voted overwhelmingly to approve their agreement with the district. AFSCME represents bus drivers, food service workers, secretaries, skilled trades employees, and custodians.

On Monday, the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, which represents the district's 300 principals, counselors, and other nonteaching professionals, approved concessions.

The cost-saving measures likely will drive some students out of TPS schools, some school officials predicted Saturday.

"The changes we're making will probably affect our enrollment," said Bob Vasquez, president of the TPS Board of Education. "People are telling us that they are going to look at other options. It's not like we're turning a blind eye to it. It's not like we're not listening. It's that we had to do what we had to do. We had to balance the budget."

Vice President Lisa Sobecki agreed.

"Our school system is going to be a lot different than what Toledoans are accustomed to," Ms. Sobecki said. "But we need to forge ahead and hope people continue to support the public school system."

About 1,700 of the district's 2,160 teachers voted Saturday at Stranahan Theater; about 160 of the 330 paraprofessionals voted at Byrnedale Middle School, and about 40 of the 330 substitute teachers voted at the Toledo Federation of Teachers' office.

All groups overwhelmingly approved the concessions during voice votes, Ms. Lawrence said.

The unions approved the classroom layoffs of about 9.5 percent of the district's instructional staff, though as many as 100 of the proposed job cuts could be absorbed by retirements and attrition, Ms. Lawrence said.

Although the layoffs will be spread across various subjects and grade levels, most teaching positions will be cut at the high schools, Ms. Lawrence said.

"Beginning next school year, there will be an unprecedented number of retirements due to the instability of the district," she said.

The health-care changes mean district employees will face a bigger co-pay for prescription drugs, physician office visits, and emergency room visits.

The district's financial woes continued after May 4 when TPS voters rejected a 0.75 percent income tax on earned income that was expected to raise $18.1 million a year.

In the weeks following the election, the board learned the projected deficit for next school year was $9 million higher than the $30 million estimate.

In a 3-2 vote May 25, the board reversed its earlier decision to keep Libbey High School open, a move expected to save about $1.3 million. The district also will eliminate busing for high school students and increase the walking distance from one to two miles for other students. Athletic and extracurricular programs also will be pared next school year.

Two nonunion positions in the superintendent's cabinet will be eliminated, Mr. Foley said. One of those is a new, not-yet-filled position for legal counsel, and the other is the chief of staff position. Other cuts at the top administrative level are expected after the new superintendent is hired, Mr. Foley said.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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