The Baldwin school district issued layoff notices to 99 of its teachers at the beginning of the month. The news was met with gasps from most associated with the district, but according to both the Baldwin Teachers Association and the district, the situation, while far from rosy, may not be as bleak as it first appears.
The number seems enormous given that the district employs about 700 teachers. But the layoff of approximately 14 percent of the teaching staff represents what both sides of the situation have called a worst-case scenario. The teachers who received notices on March 1 will be let go as a block only if Baldwin residents vote down two drafts of the Board of Education’s spending plan and the district is forced to adopt a contingency budget— which would contain no increases. According to spokeswoman Cristina Schmohl, that has not happened in at least 20 years.
The budget that will be put to a vote on May 21 contains an increase of just over $2 million, which the district believes will allow it to limit cuts to between 15 and 20 positions — still not a number officials are comfortable with, but preferable to 99.
So why were so many notices sent out? It was a compromise between the district and the union. Christopher L. Greer, the first-year president of the BTA, explained that the association was not happy with the way
layoffs were handled last year. “Last year there were two waves of layoffs,” Greer said, speaking during a break between classes. “One was, I believe, in April. People who didn’t get excising letters breathed a sign of relief. Then the district found out in late June that they needed to lay off more teachers.”
In all, the district severed ties with two groups of 13 teachers each, but Greer characterized the blow to the second group as
particularly punishing. A teacher who finds out in June that he or she won’t be employed the following year, he explained, has very few options. “It’s a tough market for teachers,” Greer said. “If you find out [that you have been let go] over the summer, it’s almost impossible to find another job.”