Tuesday, April 27, 1999

City teachers are being laid off

School board confronted by angry crowd

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Board of Education members agreed Monday night to lay off 77 teachers this summer as part of an effort to trim $20 million from the district's 1999-2000, $360 million budget.

        The vote came after two hours of angry comments from teachers and other school supporters, who warned the cuts would reverse the 47,200-student district's recent performance gains.

        “Our schools are not overstaffed. Kids do not get too much help,” Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Tom Mooney said, drawing a standing ovation. “You ought to ask the teachers how likely it is to raise student achievement with this much less resources.

        “These cuts are deep and they're destructive.”

        Another 14 teaching positions were eliminated, but those teachers will fill vacancies. And another 14 teachers lost their jobs because of certification issues unreleated to the budget cuts.

        In the two months since Cincinnati Public Schools leaders announced the $20 million in cuts, the teachers union has been their one consistent critic.

        Monday, more than 600 other critics packed district headquarters in Corryville to hear Superintendent Steven Adamowski lay out his budget proposal to the school board. Crowds grew so large that at least 100 people were herded into the cafeteria to watch the meeting on TV screens.

        Most were critics. And most of the critics were teachers.

        Colleen Montando, an English teacher at Shroder School, was one of the 105 teachers who will lose their jobs this summer. Most learned of the layoffs from letters they received in the mail last weekend.

        “That letter confirmed that the hours I arrive early or stay late, the help sessions I offer students and the organized instruction I provide mean little in this district,” Ms. Montando said. “I cannot think of a more degrading, humiliating and absolutely inhumane way to receive this news.”

        Mr. Adamowski has said many of the laid-off teachers may be rehired as other teachers retire.

        Other teachers said the cuts made budget decisions frustrating. This is the first year schools set their own budgets under the district's new student-based budgeting. Cuts included teachers, extracurricular activities, counselors, librarians, and classroom and office supplies.

        “I felt like I was trying to make a grocery list for a family of four with $15 for the week,” said Judy Naugle, a Covedale School teacher. “The families who come to our schools deserve better support.”

        Without student services such as counseling and tutoring, some warned, the district risks a catastrophe such as Littleton, Colo., suffered last week when two students went on a killing rampage in their high school.

        Mr. Mooney chastised administrators for including $6 million in new central-services spending during a time of budget cuts. Mr. Adamowski's proposal includes such new reforms as an accelerated school for overage students and new administrative positions, including an internal auditor and charter-school manager.

        Mr. Mooney presented another proposal that included:

        • Retirement incentives for veteran teachers.

        • A salary freeze for all employees, instead of just teachers and administrators.

        • More restrictions on new spending.

        • Less money for transportation, magnet schools and professional training.

        But district Business Executive Kenton Cashell said the union's proposal merely reflects different priorities. School officials plan to discuss the union's suggestions at a budget workshop May 5.

        Mr. Adamowski said that as school leaders weighed levy options this year, public sentiment was loud and clear: People wanted better results for less money.

        Ignoring that message would ruin the district's chances of convincing voters to approve a tax increase in November, he said.

        “We have done our part. We have tightened our belt. We have done what the public asked us to do: to improve results and to do it at less cost,” he said, referring to recent performance gains on state proficiency tests.

        In other business, the school board approved the closing of Bloom Middle School in the West End and its reopening this fall as an accelerated school for overage students.


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