WUHSMS Lay-Offs Remain As Planned, Union Offer on Early Retirements Declined

Woodstock Early Bird has been in touch with those working on the issue of whether School Board and WUHSMS Administration-directed layoffs for teachers will proceed as announced. Following a meeting last week, the answer is, “Yes, they will.”

Last week’s meeting follows on the heels of well-attended School Board meeting held in Woodstock last month where Teachers’ Union officials were asked to make a presentation of a possible “work-around” for the announced lay-offs. The plan, as discussed, might be one based on finding willing “volunteers” who had said they would consider early retirement packages. The union representative Keri Bristow did submit such a proposal.

Bristow is with 28 students in Panama this week so was not able to comment at length on the issue. However, she did confirm in an email that a “new” contract between Woodstock teachers and the school district has been signed, although School Board Finance Chair J. Leiter says there may still be an outstanding signature or two in the district.

We asked if the “new” contract provided for any changes in the idea that seniority is the sole determination for layoffs rather than merit as many members of the public attending the January meeting had asked for.  Leiter, speaking as a School Board member,  wrote us he believes the new contract only deepens the commitment to seniority without anything new about a merit-based approach, “Yes, the importance of seniority as the criterion for RIF’s is strengthened. This has been a traditional bargaining point upon which the teachers and teacher’s union have insisted.”

Bristow commented in an email from Panama that she and teachers are obviously “disappointed” in not being able to offer early retirement packages to some willing teachers — and by default, make it possible to keep some mid-career or younger teachers.

Leiter, shared with us the following “update” he sent to Bristow, as a representative of the Union, following last week’s meeting. Bristow then sent it to teachers:

The entire Board discussed a retirement incentive at its meeting last night, and the conclusion of the Board was that such an offer is not warranted at this time.

The key elements in the discussion were as follows. Declining enrollment at the HS and MS has compelled the board to reduce the number of staff at WUHS/MS. That task was difficult for all concerned (Board, administration, teachers and students), but it has been accomplished in a manner consistent with the Teacher’s contract.

As a result, the Board feels that it is meeting its responsibility to maintain the appropriate number of teachers for the size of the student body at this time. The board does not foresee a need for reductions in staff based on retirements; the Board prefers to have students’ needs and enrollment levels dictate any changes in staffing levels.

Therefore, far from encouraging experienced and talented older teachers to retire, the Board values the contribution that the current staff make to the vibrant educational experience at WUHS/MS, and the Board is anxious to retain the skills of experienced and engaged older teachers.

Teachers need to carefully consider when to retire based on each of their own, unique financial situations, and this deeply personal decision should be made unrelated to any reductions in staff initiated to match student and staff numbers.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Patricia on February 19, 2013 at 10:51

    This is insanity! How can we ask for more money for education when we can’t show that we are using the funds we have in the smartest way possible?


  2. Posted by Russell Pejouhy on February 19, 2013 at 11:28

    The board still refuses to make administrative cuts. Cuts should be made from the top down! Look at the salaries of the 3 top administrators at the supervisory union and the 3 principals at WUHSMS.


  3. Posted by Sam Bumps on February 19, 2013 at 15:15

    I agree! 3 administrators for a declining school population is irresponsible. Cutting math a position is counterproductive to student learning.


  4. One principal is in India studying the sub-continent’s educational system, is that true?


  5. Posted by Diane Weiner on February 20, 2013 at 10:10

    Enrollment may continue to decline as students who have the ability to attend alternative programs will do so. Declining enrollment is partially a reaction to administrative actions. The Board and administrators are using band-aids rather than addressing symptoms. Voice your concerns to Alice Worth and the VT Department of Education.


  6. Posted by Molly on February 21, 2013 at 11:46

    Again, Russell Pejouhy is on the mark with the “real” solution to the problem.
    Let’s cut salaries from the TOP DOWN, not the other way around letting a
    talented math teacher go. It is truly the wrong way to go.


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