GLADSTONE - The Gladstone School Board voted to approve the Resolution for Reduction in Teaching Staff at a special meeting Wednesday night. The meeting was held to address the staff reduction issue which was initiated at the board's last regular meeting.
An arbitration case involving the Gladstone Education Association has been a driving force in the need for layoffs. "I don't know what an arbitrator ruling is going to be. I don't know what the request is going to be. So because of the mystery surrounding the arbitration I had to put a plan in place that covers the bases for the district," said Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.
Other board members are also frustrated by the uncertainty of the arbitration proceedings. "It's been a muddled mess for a year. As little as a week ago it could not be articulated to me what the grievance team was asking for. That's ridiculous," said Board Trustee Bill Milligan.
If the school district loses the arbitration case, next year's budget will be adversely affected. "There's the additional ramifications of back pay being another three-times-salary impact on our budget for next year," said Steve O'Driscoll, board trustee. New legislation prohibits back pay, however the arbitration case was filed when the old law allowing back pay was still in effect.
Layoff notices will be sent to four full-time teachers and one part time teacher. The notices are being issued as a safety net, however, some of the affected faculty may be moved to cover different positions or may be hired back.
"The bottom line as I see it is, as distasteful as this whole process is, we have a responsibility as a board to protect the district," said Milligan. "It would be a violation of our duty as a board and to the community not to take some precautions based on the outcome of this arbitration case."
While some of the selections were made based on demographic changes, some were made based on performance. Changes to legislation have now made performance the defining factor in layoff decisions, removing seniority and tenure as factors.
A teacher who is on layoff may be able to "bump" another teacher who is performing lower based on certification, qualifications and performance. The bumping teacher must be qualified to hold the job of the teacher that they bump. "I do not, I firmly do not believe we will start the next school year with these exact people on layoff," said Kulbertis.
The issue of accepting the proposed list of teachers came down to a roll-call vote. Board Trustee Richard Anderson voted against the measure. Board Secretary Linda Howlett was absent.