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What lies ahead for teachers?



Published: Sun, February 17, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The instructors don't know who will have a job and who won't.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LORDSTOWN -- It hasn't been officially announced, but the 25 teachers and 30 other staff members at Gordon D. James Career Center anticipate its closing and their need to start looking for other jobs.

"It's like watching a dear friend die by inches, and we're helpless to do anything to stop it," said Kathy Wilms, who is in her ninth year as special-needs coordinator at the center.

Wilms and the other teachers at the school expect to be out of work at the end of this school year.

The contract that covers the James center expires at the end of this year.

Districts' actions: Niles, which sent the most students to the center and paid the most in tuition, Weathersfield and McDonald districts have been accepted into the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion.

Lordstown and Howland haven't moved on their plans for career and technical education for their students, but all indications are that the James center will shut down.

"I'm not worried about myself," Wilms, of Hubbard, said, adding that her education and certifications will enable her to find other work.

For others, the likely closure means they'll probably have to relocate or change careers.

Others' plans: Dan Sabella started teaching auto body work at the center six years ago. His wife, Nancy, is his aide, so she'll also be out of a job.

Although Sabella, of Austintown, acknowledges he can distribute his r & eacute;sum & eacute; to other area vocational education facilities, the availability of such teaching positions is limited. That job at most facilities is occupied.

"I can go back into industry, which is probably what's going to come out of this, but that's not my heart," Sabella said. "I like teaching kids."

Bob Booth of Champion, who has been teaching auto mechanics at the school for 24 years, plans to look into some other school systems he's heard may be hiring. One school is a 50-mile drive one way, and the other is 30 miles away.

He's not sure if he'll have to relocate or how he'll deal with the impending closure.

"I never had to think about that," Booth said.

Seniority: Some of the James teachers with seniority and certification will be able to bump teachers at Lordstown schools, but that means someone else will be laid off, said Dennis Wingard of Canfield, a vocational business education teacher at the school for 24 years.

Adding to the uncertainty is the possibility of further personnel cuts in the Lordstown district, which is the fiscal agent for the career center.

"We don't know who's going to have a job and who's not," said Don Streb of Canfield, a vocational business education teacher for 24 years.

Members of the state commission appointed to oversee Lordstown district finances have said they plan to look at staff reductions. The commission was appointed early last year after state Auditor Jim Petro declared the district in fiscal emergency.

Most of the teachers are too young to retire, and if they're able to find work in another school district, most will probably take a pay cut.

"We have a very experienced staff, but the more experience you get, the less sellable you are," Streb said. "You price yourself right out of the market."

They also face losing the sick time they've built up during their time at the James center.

Union action: Patrick Pollifrone, president of the Lordstown Teachers Association, said the union is preparing a master r & eacute;sum & eacute; for the teachers affected, including a collective summary of teachers' names, certification and experience.

The union also is encouraging TCTC officials to consider laid-off Lordstown staff when the center is planning for the influx of more students.

The teachers also worry about the students, many of whom are considered high-risk for dropping out of school, said Christine Ladd of McDonald, who is in her first year as a technical science teacher.

"They come out here and get more individual attention," she said. "They're able to get a fresh start."

Camaraderie cultivated among staff over several years also will be lost if the center closes.

"We feel like brothers and sisters in this building," Wilms said. "We look out for each other."

dick@vindy.com




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