By Jordan Cohen
Mathews school district teachers turned out en masse at Wednesday’s board of education meeting in hopes of preventing four proposed teacher layoffs.
There was no indication that their comments, which lasted more than 45 minutes, changed the mind of Superintendent Lee Seiple, who has drafted the plan at the board’s urging.
Nearly 55 of the district’s 65 teachers swamped the meeting room, causing the board to move the meeting to the high school cafeteria across the street.
“We’re passionate about this because we know the students who are affected,” said Sandra Webber, president of Mathews Education Association, the teachers union. “You are looking at numbers, and we are showing you what the students will lose.”
Seiple proposed the layoffs to eliminate a nearly $650,000 deficit within two years. Some of the cutbacks stem from the closing of Neal Middle School at the end of the current school year, a move which Seiple says will save the district $290,000 in a number of areas, including elimination of several teaching and non-teaching positions.
Many of the teachers’ comments were critical of Seiple’s plan to eliminate one intervention specialist, a position formerly referred to as special education.
“You can’t take a child with special needs and dump it on a general-education teacher. They’re not numbers — they’re little lives,” warned Vickie Amerine, an intervention specialist for kindergarten through second grade, drawing loud applause.
Shannon Adkins, another intervention specialist, said placing the challenged students in regular classes is likely to impair the district’s performance on state tests.
“My [special-needs students] probably won’t pass the Ohio Achievement Tests, but they may hinder others from passing them,” Adkins said.
Seiple’s plan also includes the elimination of a guidance counselor, English and social studies teacher, and a part-time French teacher. Teachers said the furloughs would leave one social studies teacher for 125 students.
Seiple, responding to a question from one of the teachers, did not indicate he was in any mood to change his mind. “I don’t think we need cafeteria and custodial staff [from Neal] and [teachers] should also be considered for consolidation,” the superintendent said. None of the board members offered any comments. The board is expected to act on the issue later this spring.