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District issues layoff notices

It’s bad news for 127 teachers in the Vernon School District who are receiving lay-off notices this week.

The good news is that most of them will be recalled.

At Wednesday’s district board meeting, director of instruction for teaching personnel Diane Rhenisch told trustees that this follows the normal end-of-year pattern.

“We’re in the same position as last year — last year at this time we had 105 teachers laid off and of those, 103 of them were recalled to positions either during the summer or during the school year — of the two that didn’t come back, one extended her leave for the rest of the school year and the other declined the job offer,” she said. “So we don’t anticipate it to be any different than last year, although the number is higher.”

The 127 teachers who received lay-off notices this week are all likely to be recalled, either during the summer or throughout the year.

“I know 127 sounds alarming, but really it’s a piece of three things from my point of view: enrolment decline is part of it; budget pressures certainly have played a key role for us in our staffing and the mechanisms that are in our collective agreement around staffing procedures,” said Rhenisch.

The district is facing a $1.5 million budget shortfall.

She said the language of the teachers’ collective agreement uses what is called the layoff line, and any teachers who are below that line get laid off.

“Every year I hear people say there must be a better way to manage the staffing process, but in my mind the term different works better, there’s got to be a different way,” she said. “There is nothing pleasant or good about the spring staffing process when layoffs are there.

“I think in many senses, particularly with the changes we’ve made in the collective agreement moving forward that we’ve made things more balanced and more fair for teachers, so we’re very hopeful that it will be better for us moving into the future.”

Lay-off notices were handed out this week and Rhenisch and Vernon Teachers’ Association president Heather Malcolm have been visiting schools and meeting with teachers.

“Heather Malcolm has worked tirelessly with me throughout this past week, meeting teachers, delivering the notices, going through what’s in the package for the teachers and then we’re both available to answer questions from teachers.”

In the next few weeks, vacancies will be determined, transfers of teachers organized and placing of those teachers returning from leave. And throughout the year, other teachers with less seniority who didn’t get recalled will get recalled;

“We have more Learning Improvement Fund funds this year so that will provide more teaching positions.

“There are not as many retirements this year, but retirements will still trickle in, so I’m very optimistic that we will end up with everybody being recalled, not necessarily to their old FTE but to some work.”

Robyn Ladner, professional development chairperson with the VTA, said it’s a stressful time of year for teachers, many of whom are on a layoff recall cycle of about eight years until they are above the layoff line.

“The problem is many are in a different job every year or they have a cobbled together position where they are in two different schools, and we also have a number of them who are out of their specialty area, such as a secondary teacher moving to an elementary school,” she said. “So not only is there the uncertainty of ‘am I going to work,’ but they have to start something new every year; it’s stressful but at this point they’ve resigned themselves to it.”

Ladner said it changes every year, so it’s impossible to predict where recalled teachers will end up.

“The school district does the best they can, but it’s been difficult this week especially, where we had teachers on strike and locked out and then 105 of them were laid off at the same time.

“Having said that, morale is good and the public support was overwhelming during the strike.”

 

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