EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 14, 2009

Layoff notices go out to 123 Andover teachers

Not all will be without jobs

By Brian Messenger

ANDOVER — Pink slips will be handed out to 123 rookie teachers today, marking the first formal step toward permanent layoffs for as many as 55 school employees this summer.

Superintendent Claudia Bach is recommending a $2.4 million cut from the School Department's $47.5 million payroll for the budget year starting July 1. That includes an $800,000 cut in teacher salaries.

"It's a very, very devastating budget," said Bach. "This is the most severe elimination and cut to programs in the 11 years I've been here."

The 123 teachers receiving pink slips today are those with three years of service or less. While many of those who receive pink slips will not be laid off, under the terms of the union contract, they must all be put on notice no later than tomorrow.

School Committee member Deb Silberstein said members of her committee and representatives of school unions will meet today to discuss furloughs and a wage freeze as a way to avoid layoffs. Silberstein said as many as 55 full- and part-time School Department employees could be laid off.

"We've already been told no, but we're going to ask again and see where it goes," said Silberstein.

Members of seven of eight school unions are due 3.5 percent raises next year. Set to expire in June 2010, contracts signed last year guaranteed 8.5 percent cost-of-living raises over three years.

"That's up to the residents in town to determine the level of services they desire," said teachers' union President Tom Meyers, when asked if Andover teachers would agree to furloughs or pay cuts. "We bargained a contract in good faith and that contract's in full force."

Bach's $60.4 million budget request next year is $1 million more than this year's school budget and creates a $3.2 million operating deficit.

To balance her budget, Bach has proposed $771,000 in cuts to administrative staff, $528,000 to employees at Andover High School, $530,000 to staff at Andover's three middle schools, and $608,000 to employees working at the six elementary schools in town.

Tonight, the School Committee will meet with elementary school principals to discuss the proposed cuts.

Bach also has proposed various fee increases to help balance the budget by creating $473,000 in new revenue.

Under Bach's plan, bus fees would increase by $100 to $400, with an $800 cap per family. The cost of playing high-school sports will double from $250 to $500, with a $1,000 cap per family.

An extracurricular activity fee of $150 will be introduced at the high school, and similar fees at the middle schools will increase from $25 to $100, with a $200 cap per family.

Also proposed are 5 percent tuition hikes for preschool students and a 15 percent increase for all-day kindergarten tuition.

Bach said the fees are comparable with what other school districts in the state charge.

"We did base it on what's out there right now," said Bach. "There will be people that just won't be able to participate."