While school districts around the state are rushing to issue preliminary layoff notices to teachers amid the uncertainty in Madison, officials at the and school districts are holding off on taking such action until they get a clearer picture of their finances.
Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday will unveil his 2011-13 state budget that is expected to include significant cuts in funding for local schools. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards, in anticipation of the cuts and the likely passage of Walker's budget repair bill, is urging districts to issue preliminary layoffs by Monday. If the budget repair bill passes in its current form, Monday could be the latest date the districts could issue preliminary layoff notices, the group said.
However, Nicolet has reached an agreement with its teachers union to extend the deadline for issuing preliminary layoff notices and won't be taking action on Monday. The new deadline for preliminary notices is May 15, and final notices are due June 1.
District Administrator Rick Monroe said that it's about making educated decisions.
"We don’t know what kids are asking for next year, what our budget is (and) to give people layoff notices now, it’s almost impossible to do," he said. "Some districts are just giving everybody a layoff notice. I think that’s ridiculous."
Monroe went on to explain that it's a morale killer to issue notices to half or all of your staff, just to later say, "Hey, you're actually OK."
He said the big reason schools are issuing such wide notices is not necessarily because they're anticipating large layoffs, but because even if just a few layoffs are needed, no one knows what departments they will be in yet. Monroe said many different factors come into play when determining layoffs, including which classes students select and the school's enrollment, which determines how many teachers are needed.
"We don’t have that information now, so it’d be irresponsible to start making decisions that impact people’s livelihoods based on just guessing," Monroe said.
"It’s not good for morale, it’s not respectful to people, it’s just not the way to handle people," Monroe continued. "You don’t do that to somebody, tell them, 'Oh, by the way, here’s your prelim,' then the final notice two weeks later. Why even do it if you know it’s not going to happen? Why put them through that aggravation?"
And the Nicolet teachers union is in agreement. Union President David Quam said he and the teachers appreciate Monroe's concern for the staff.
"It shows our school’s commitment to working together to keep the kids in the forefront. That’s why we're here, to give the kids the best education possible," Quam said. "By making a less stressful environment for us, I think the administration has helped us to keep the kids in the forefront and not have people worried about, 'What does this layoff mean to me?' Instead they can worry about teaching that lesson to their students. We are very appreciative of it."
In the other local districts though, it's a different story. At Fox Point-Bayside, the teachers already have a contractual agreement through June 2012. That extends their deadline for layoff notices to April 1. District Administrator Rachel Boechler said there is no sense in increasing anxiety by making mass layoffs now.
"It creates a huge morale issue across the building. On the news today I heard that there’s a district that laid off 1,600 teachers. I mean, come on," she said. "We’re trying to minimize the damage and recognize the anxiety across the building. Teachers are under attack in Wisconsin."
Administrator Mary Dean could not be reached for comment Friday on whether the district plans to issue preliminary layoff notices soon.
However, the district has scheduled a School Board meeting for 8 a.m. Monday to take up "possible action regarding memorandum of understanding" with teachers.
Stay tuned to Patch for an update after that meeting.