GLADSTONE - The Gladstone School Board failed to form a consensus on staff layoffs Monday night, and was forced to schedule a special board meeting to address the issue.
On the table at the meeting was a resolution approving a reduction in the Gladstone teaching staff. The positions of four full-time and one part-time teacher were scheduled to be eliminated due to what the resolution described as "declining enrollment and a budget shortfall."
"We also have an arbitration case that we are involved in," said Board Secretary Linda Howlett.
While the board was careful not to provide any specifics that could interfere with the arbitration process, it was stated the case was a factor in the need for the layoffs. The case may also require the district to reinstate as many as three laid-off teachers.
"When we do layoffs, we have to cover every eventuality. That's the unfortunate thing with layoffs, it's not a perfect science. So, typically to cover our bases, we are required to initially layoff more, and then our hope is to call back as many as we can," said Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.
The board selected the five teachers based on performance.
"Our decisions, at this point, are based entirely on maintaining the most effective teachers, so we are prohibited from considering years of service as anything but a tie-breaker," said Kulbertis.
Teachers in attendance at the meeting also weighed in on the issue.
"We had to be highly-qualified to get these jobs, and I've spent since 1991, the last 20-odd years, building my reputation and certification as a teacher," said Robin Custance, third-grade teacher at Jones Elementary, addressing the board. "It's kind of insulting as senior teachers to see no seniority."
When the vote was taken to adopt the resolution, Board Trustee Richard Anderson and Board Treasurer Ryan Lyle voted against the measure. Because Board President Jeff Deacon and Trustee Bill Milligan were absent, there were not enough votes to achieve a consensus. A special meeting of the school board was set for May 30 to readdress the issue.
"Because of the arbitration, we have to vote on laying people off and we need all the information brought to light before we take that vote," said Board Trustee Richard Anderson.
The last possible day that layoff notices can legally be issued is June 30, 15 days before the end of the school year. "It's been our practice to issue pink slips as early as possible so that the folks who have to live with them hanging over their heads have as much time as possible to try to plan," said Howlett. "I don't see an overwhelming need to postpone this decision."
Howlett expressed that she will be unable to attend the May 30 meeting.
Also on the agenda for the special meeting will be the adoption of a revised version of the elementary school handbook. The handbook will include new language about absences at the elementary level.
The May 30 meeting will be held at the Gladstone Public Library at 7 p.m.