Duluth School Board cuts 60 jobsThe combination of state budget cuts and declining enrollment forced the deepest cuts in at least three years.
By: Sarah Horner, Duluth News Tribune
More than 60 employees in the Duluth school district won’t have jobs to return to next fall.
The Duluth School Board approved 31 layoffs and 34 terminations of positions at a school board meeting tonight in a 6-1 vote. The layoffs affected tenured staff and the terminations affected non-tenured staff.
Board member Judy Seliga-Punyko, a former teacher in the district, had tears in her eyes before acting on the vote.
“There are a lot of names of people here that I know and they are excellent teachers,” she said. “This is really hard to do.”
Board member Gary Glass voted against the resolutions.
Budget woes were largely to blame for the layoffs, according to Tim Sworsky, human resources manager for the Duluth school district. Faced with a $4.5 million budget deficit, the district made significant cuts to the Secondary Technical Center this year and opted to reduce specialist time and the length of the school day at elementary schools.
The combination of the two, along with another 2.5 percent drop in student enrollment, had a major impact on staff.
“This is the first time in at least three years that we’ve had real significant layoffs,” Sworsky said. “It’s a hard thing to do.”
Last year the district laid off three tenured teachers and about 18 non-tenured staff members.
Bill Hanson, Duluth’s business director, said the deep cuts are the result of years of trying to keep cuts away from the classrooms.
“After cutting and cutting and cutting … it has just become harder to make these budget adjustments without hitting heavier in the classrooms,” he said.
Frank Wanner, the president of the Duluth Federation of Teachers, said the layoffs are a major blow to the union.
“I just feel incredibly bad for the people losing their jobs,” he said. “Some of the layoffs go much, much deeper than I would have anticipated.”
The union is not pointing its finger at the district, though. Wanner said the state is to blame.
“This is completely due to the state underfunding education,” he said. “We are not the only district having this problem.”
He added that until the state changes course or the red plan starts to free up money from building consolidations, the trend will continue. “We are going to see a continued series of cuts and cuts.”
At least 10 of the affected staff members will likely be called back, according to Sworsky. He said 10 of the layoffs were the result of a grant running out for Head Start. The district is reapplying for the grant and will likely get it, which would restore all 10 jobs.
Other funding streams or teacher retirements could be announced this summer that could lead to more recalls of laid-off, tenured staff.