Union official questions Austintown BOE about layoff

By Robert Connelly



A union president questioned the process as Austintown Local Board of Education members laid off a full-time teacher Wednesday afternoon.

Barb Tomic, president of the Austintown Education Association union, questioned board officials during the board’s meeting at Fitch High School’s auditorium.

She wanted to know why a less-tenured teacher wasn’t selected or a teacher on a different type of contract, such as nonrenewal.

“AEA does not want to lose our quality teachers,” she told the board.

The teacher, Jason Baker, is a physical-education teacher at both Austintown Elementary and Austintown intermediate schools. The board voted 3-2 for the layoff, with Harold Porter and Kenneth Jakubec voting against it.

Superintendent Vincent Colaluca explained that the district thought two teachers were going to retire at the end of the year, adding they were going to be overstaffed in the physical education department.

He also assured the loss of Baker “had nothing to do with his performance,” and said this was an example of the district being “good stewards of tax dollars.”

During the board comment section, Porter explained his no vote.

“I have a hard time justifying $35 an hour and cutting another teacher,” Porter said.

He was referring to the board’s decision to hire Daniel Bokesch as an administrative consultant for the transportation department at a rate of $35 an hour, limited to 500 hours.

Bokesch retired last year after working in the district for 43 years; his consultant contract was effective April 30, 2014, and runs until the end of next school year.

In other action, seven substitute teachers were not renewed for next school year and two part-time teachers at Fitch were also not retained for next school year.

There were nonrenewals of 113 staff for the online schools.

Colaluca said this is common as “it’s a yearly thing.”

He said the 113 personnel handled 140 kids in the online school this year and if attendance goes up next year, they would look at hiring more and bringing back some of the same personnel.

In other matters, the board accepted the donation of a Kawai piano, valued at $13,620, from the Dwight and Colleen Carson family.

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