Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Caught behind the 8-ball
Seven Traver teachers may lose their jobs

by Steve Targo

March 03, 2011

Linn — The state budget turmoil has hit close to home for seven Traver School teachers.

At a special meeting Monday morning, the School Board decided to send nonrenewal notices out to warn those teachers there’s a possibility their contracts won’t be renewed for the 2011-12 school year.

During a telephone interview Tuesday morning, Traver Administrator Mary DeYoung described the board’s action to issue them with notices of nonrenewal as an effort to “cover all bases.”

It was an 11th hour decision. The board had a Monday deadline to notify teachers, and met to discuss the action at 9 a.m. DeYoung said typically, the layoff deadline is May 1. However, she said from what she’s read, it’s possible once the state budget is signed that timeline “may not be acceptable and teachers could file a grievance.”

“It’s not a practice we normally follow, but we didn‘t have many options open to us,” DeYoung said of the board’s action.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed state budget was expected to be announced Tuesday. The controversy surrounding Walker’s budget repair bill has made national headlines for the past two weeks.

During the past few days, several other Wisconsin public school districts sent out nonrenewal notices to their teachers.

“We had to make sure our district is protected, to make sure we have enough money to run the district,” DeYoung said. “It’s not something we wanted to do. We didn’t have any time to come up with a plan.”

At Traver, there are a total of 16 teachers. Essentially, if there isn’t enough money in the budget to fund the positions of those seven who received notices, their contracts expire at the end of the school year.

DeYoung said those who received notices were mostly teachers in special subject areas, “but there were some classroom teachers, too.”

“We looked at our curriculum and our core areas, where we have to have classroom teachers,” she said.

DeYoung said if the proposed state budget was finalized as-is, Traver could be facing a slash in revenue of about $164,000 — big for the district’s budget, but small compared to the state as a whole.

Tony Evers, state superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, paints a similarly desperate picture.

Evers commented on a study by Dr. Andrew Reschnovsky, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor. According to the release, the study is based on reported reductions of more than $900 million in school aid and a new revenue limit mandating a $500 per-pupil reduction in property tax authority.

Evers stated cuts like these mean teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, reduced course offerings, less extracurricular activities “and whole parts of what we value in our schools are gone.”

DeYoung echoed a similar concern for loss of services.

“It’s important not to start cutting parts of positions because then we start cutting what we offer to kids,” she said.

Not just teachers

But if what Traver officials predict comes true, local budget cuts may not be limited to just teaching jobs.

According to DeYoung, the proposed state budget would reduce the amount of revenue Traver receives from property taxes and state aid.

She said the School Board discussed conducting a special budget meeting later this month so officials can identify other potential cuts. This meeting likely would occur after the next regular board meeting, which is set for Tuesday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re not looking just at teachers,” DeYoung said.

However, she said all staff members understand the current situation.

“It’s a good staff here and they know the board and the administration will do everything it can to maintain the programs we have,” DeYoung said.

She said if the seven teachers end up being let go, they may not have to reapply for their old jobs should those positions reopen.

DeYoung said each teacher has “18-month recall rights.” For example, if a teacher loses his or her job at the end of this year, and the district has enough money to reopen that position in the middle of the 2011-12 school year, the district would notify that person and they could resume working at the school.