EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 24, 2010

19 Methuen teachers laid off

METHUEN — The city's schools have laid off 19 teachers who teach a variety of subjects, according to documents released this week.

Superintendent Jeanne Whitten previously said 20 to 22 teachers would be laid off, and that she would release the teachers' names once layoffs were finalized.

The list was released at Monday night's School Committee meeting.

The layoffs are happening despite the fact that 45 teachers' union members signed a petition seeking a union membership vote on a proposal to discuss with the School Committee ways to avoid layoffs.

School Business Administrator Glenn Fratto has said the union could have avoided most, if not all, layoffs by agreeing to a 5 percent cap on pay raises this year.

Bo Pham, the teacher who led the effort to push union leaders to talk to the committee, was one of the people laid off. Teachers union President Donna Gogas declined to comment.

"The last I heard from Donna was that there would be a meeting sometime in September," Pham said. School starts Sept. 1, and the 19 teachers are already laid off. Pham has accepted a job teaching biotechnology at Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover. "It's so unfortunate," he said about the Methuen layoffs. "It's really about the kids. The classes are going to be bigger." Pham questioned how teachers can teach young people to think beyond themselves when they can't even agree on a pay concession to save their peers' jobs. "The hands that are held out should be asking to help out," he said.

Whitten said that if the schools receive money for teachers from the $26 billion jobs bill signed by President Barack Obama on Aug. 10, she wants Methuen to save that money for when the schools' $4.3 million in federal stimulus cash runs out.

"At the end of this academic year, all of the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds go away. So if there's a way to create opportunity that can carry us into the next couple of years so that we can pick up the slack with all of the ARRA funds going away, that would be a smart thing to do," Whitten said.

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