2012-04-12 / Letters to the Editor

Let state know that teachers ‘deserve a break’

Last week’s Jamestown Press carried a full-page ad drawing attention to the 30 percent of Jamestown schoolteachers who received layoff notifications. The explicit message of the ad, paid for by the Jamestown Teachers’ Association, is that residents should attend the April 12 joint budget meeting of the Town Council and School Committee to support our children, schools and Jamestown teachers.

The implicit message is that the Rhode Island statutes governing layoff notification need to be changed.

State law requires school committees to issue layoff notifications for the following year by March 1 to any teacher who may not be retained in his or her position, regardless of reason. Because our working budget will not be final until approved by the Town Council in April and Jamestown voters in June, and because the educational needs of all our students for the coming year are not certain by February, it is the School Committee’s fiduciary duty to provide for all possible scenarios.

Therefore, the Jamestown School Committee issued “pink slips” to 16 teachers. We do not anticipate reducing our staff by more than one; however, some teaching assignments or responsibilities may change.

Because the notification deadline is so early, the required pink-slipping exercise is unavoidable and is as painful to the School Committee and administrators as it is to the pink-slip recipients.

School districts statewide have lobbied the legislature to move the teacher layoff notification deadline to a later date, but ironically every year the statelevel union leaders oppose the move. A May or June notification date would allow school committees to have a clearer picture of finances and student needs for the following year, as well as more accurate knowledge of impending retirements and resignations, resulting in fewer pink slips.

Fewer pink slips mean fewer individuals being needlessly stressed. Jamestown teachers don’t need the ex- tra pressure: They are already addressing the additional challenges of meeting the requirements of the new state Department of Education evaluation system, transitioning to new national common core standards, and adjusting to everchanging technology.

May 8 is Teacher Appreciation Day. Please join the School Committee in saluting Jamestown teachers and gratefully acknowledging their many significant contributions to public education.

And let our legislators know that you support House Bill 7272 to move the layoff notification date to June 1. Our teachers deserve a break.

Cathy Kaiser
Jamestown School Committee

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