271 Pittsburgh school workers await layoff vote
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Esposito-Visgitis: "It's a really sad day at the PFT."
Superintendent Linda Lane: "It is still very regrettable and certainly very sad, but it's not of the original magnitude."
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The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools is expected to vote tonight to furlough an estimated 271 employees, including 178 teachers and other professional members of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers in a cost-cutting move.
In May, about 285 teachers and other professionals received provisional furloughs, but additional retirements, resignations and other changes have reduced the number by more than 100.
Even so, the number of teacher layoffs is larger than any other year in the district's institutional memory, said superintendent Linda Lane.
"It is still very regrettable and certainly very sad, but it's not of the original magnitude," she said.
In addition to the teacher layoffs, the list up for a vote tonight includes 60 paraprofessionals, nine technical-clerical workers, 11 pre-K teachers, 12 other pre-K employees and one administrator.
The numbers were still being finalized Tuesday.
The district also previously gave furlough notices to 17 secretarial-clerical workers, four central office workers and 12 adjunct instructors.
That brings the total to 304 furloughs this year although the district estimates the total number of positions being eliminated is estimated at about 500.
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.
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Esposito-Visgitis said, "It's a really sad day at the PFT."
She said, "We're extraordinarily concerned by the number of teacher, paraprofessional and technical-clerical furloughs.
"We worry about appropriate services for our students, and the PFT continues to monitor this dire situation closely and will continue to do so until each and every one of our members is called back to our district and can continue their excellent work of moving our students forward."
The teacher layoffs follow the process spelled out in the union contract, which calls for teachers to be furloughed based on their seniority and certification.
At the direction of the board, Ms. Lane unsuccessfully tried to persuade the teachers to allow teacher effectiveness to be considered.
Esposito-Visgitis repeatedly has said that seniority, coupled with certification, is the only fair way to furlough teachers.
Ms. Lane's efforts to consider teacher effectiveness won support from various organizations, including the Pittsburgh and Grable foundations, The Heinz Endowments, A+ Schools and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.
The district received 1,535 postcards and emails calling for teacher effectiveness to be considered in deciding who would be furloughed.
Ms. Lane called the community support "invaluable."
She said she will continue to try to persuade the union to agree to change the process.
"I do not consider this the end of this story," she said. "The board asked me to keep working on it."
Ms. Lane said there is a "range of effectiveness" among teachers who are being furloughed and those who are not.
Of those being furloughed, she said, five to 10 of them are in the top 10 to 15 percent of the district's teachers.
Of those who are staying, she said, "We also know we have a lot of highly effective teachers who are going to be in the classroom in August."
When the provisional furlough notices went out, the cuts among elementary-certified teachers went as deep as seven years of experience. Now they go to 3.8 years of experience.
About 29 percent of the furloughs are in K-5 schools and 24 percent in K-8 schools.
Before the furloughs, the district had the full-time equivalent of 2,245 teachers and other professionals represented by the union.
First Published July 25, 2012 12:00 am