Austintown Schools Board moves to lay off 16 teachers
By JUSTIN DENNIS
Some of the 16 Austintown schools teachers recently laid off were part of the district’s agreement with the teachers union and based on projected declines in enrollment and revenues.
Superintendent Vince Colaluca said Thursday he’s never seen a larger reduction in force at one time in his 10 years heading the district.
He said the school board’s recent decision to discontinue a long-standing instructional coach program, through which senior faculty members help their juniors to better teach the district’s curriculum, caused six newer teachers to be bumped out of their spots.
The 16 low-seniority teachers left without a job after the April 10 meeting – two of whom are husband and wife – have rights to any district positions that open up in the next three years, Colaluca said.
“My heart goes out to these folks,” he said. “It’s tough enough to get a teaching job. ... This is not a reflection on anybody’s abilities to do their jobs – it’s basically the lowest-seniority person in the teaching area.
“I told every one of them if there’s a job out there, I will personally call to that superintendent.”
The board also chose not to renew contracts for seven long-term substitute teachers and 27 supplemental staff members during that meeting, Colaluca said. Staff members’ wages get a percentage bump for each supplemental staff member lost, he said.
Administrators structured the reduction in the union’s collective bargaining agreement around projected declines in enrollment and revenue which is partially related to the loss of the nearby General Motors Lordstown Assembly Complex, Colaluca said.
Administrators are unsure just how many enrolled students could be lost when their families leave the area for new work, but “there are a handful of families that are leaving now,” he said.
Colaluca said administrators should have a better idea of where enrollment stands after passing the district’s open enrollment deadline Tuesday.
The district relies heavily on open enrollment figures for income, he said. Each student is worth more than $6,000 for the district, he estimated.
“My fear is that as our population declines and we don’t generate revenue ... in the future, I don’t ever want us to lose programs,” he said.
Representatives from the teachers union, the Austintown Education Association, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Colaluca said district administrators want more legislative traction for a new school funding plan introduced this month by Republican state Rep. Robert Cupp, of Lima, and Democratic state Rep. John Patterson, of Jefferson, which includes $1.2 billion in additional school funding, more of which would be directed toward poorer students and schools, according to the Associated Press.