Pittsburgh Public Schools board OKs 280 layoffs

Employee furloughs part of plans to save more than $42M

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Now there are names to go with the Pittsburgh Public Schools layoff numbers -- 280 names of school-based employees who will receive furlough notices.

In an effort to save money Wednesday, the city school board approved a furlough list that includes 176 K-12 teachers and other professionals, 14 pre-K teachers, 59 paraprofessionals, 12 adjuncts, 10 other pre-K professionals and nine technical-clerical workers.

All are represented by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and were among the 3,477 school-based employees -- including teachers -- the district had this past school year. The latest layoffs represent about 8 percent of that group.

The district had the full-time equivalent of 2,245 teachers and other professionals represented by the union before the furloughs.

"I forced myself to read through every single name," school Superintendent Linda Lane said afterward. "Some of them I know. It makes it real. Each one is an individual. You have a sense of what that might mean to them."

Coupled with 17 secretarial-clerical workers and four central office workers who previously received notices, the district is laying off 301 employees this school year. In addition, four teachers who were full time will be part time.

Ms. Lane believes it is the largest number of teacher layoffs in the district's history.

At the meeting, some school board members spoke of their sadness in making the decision.

"I am sad to do this," said board member Theresa Colaizzi, who added that she realizes that in today's economy "we don't have a choice."

The board voted, 6-0, in favor of the layoffs, with three members -- Mark Brentley Sr., Regina Holley and Sharene Shealey -- absent.

The teacher furloughs are part of a plan aimed at saving $29.1 million over a school year through workforce reductions, school closings and reconfigurations, feeder pattern changes and larger class sizes.

Some of the other furloughs are part of a plan to save an additional $13.1 million.

In May, 285 teachers received provisional furlough notices, but the number of teachers actually furloughed was smaller, primarily because of retirements and resignations as well as a buyout plan that attracted 24 teachers.

While the furloughs this year total 301, overall the number of positions eliminated approaches 500.

In a phone interview Wednesday from a union meeting in Detroit, Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said, "We certainly want the number of furloughs to be zero. That's our primary concern.

"We're concerned about the number of positions in the district lost also and what that means in terms of services for students and supports for teachers."

After the meeting, Ms. Lane said, "Anybody that leaves, we miss."

But for students, she said, "School is going to start. There will be teachers in their classrooms. We're going to try to support those teachers so they can do their very best for them."

The teacher layoffs were done by certification area and seniority, as required by the union contract.

Ms. Lane said she will continue to try to persuade the union to permit teacher effectiveness to be considered in making layoffs.

For elementary-certified teachers, the provisional furlough notices went as far as teachers who had seven years of experience. However, the final list went to 3.8 years of experience, district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

The highest seniority among teachers furloughed is 9.7 years for an early childhood family service specialist.

Other teachers furloughed with high seniority were in German and business, both 8.8 years.

Of the 280 furlough notices, 225 were in K-12 schools and 55 in early childhood programs, including 31 of the paraprofessionals as well as the 24 pre-K employees.

Some schools were hit harder than others. The list includes 14 teachers at Pittsburgh Faison K-5 in Homewood, 11 teachers at Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12 in the Hill District and nine teachers at Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood.

Some teachers who still have jobs will be moving schools. In April, 450 teachers -- including some who now have been furloughed -- received displacement notices, indicating that, if they still had a job, they could expect to change schools because of school closings or bumping by more senior teachers.

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Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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