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posted: 3/8/2011 12:01 AM

District 207 cuts 24 teachers; some may be recalled

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The Maine Township High School District 207 school board Monday night cut 24 teachers to contain costs, and because of an anticipated decline in enrollment in the 2011-2012 school year.

Of the 24 teachers laid off, 19 are nontenured and five are tenured teachers, many of whom will likely be recalled if student enrollment increases. Teachers have to be notified 45 days before the end of the school year of any reduction-in-force action.

Barb Rieger, who has been teaching oral communications and introduction to radio and television in the district for nine years, was among those let go Monday.

"I'm a tenured teacher with a master's degree, so needless to say, I was quite surprised when I received a RIF letter on Thursday that said my services were no longer needed at District 207," Rieger said. "I understand that flexibility is important when budget cuts are necessary and that we all need to work together to do what is best for the students."

The district's enrollment as of December was 6,874 students -- 1,946 at Maine East; 2,590 at Maine South; and 2,338 at Maine West. That's 47 fewer students than the six-day enrollment recorded on Aug. 31.

The projected enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year is about 30 to 40 students lower, District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace said.

Wallace said it's not unusual for school districts to downsize before the start of a new school year based on enrollment.

"Some districts reduce all of their nontenured staff every year," he said. "This is in line with what we have always done. We've averaged 30 (RIFs) for the last five years. This is preventive. Once we have course counts in, some or many of these people may be called back."

Student registration closes March 15. The district has until April 10 to recall tenured teachers and April 27 to recall nontenured teachers, officials said.

"By mid-April we should know exactly what we need and we can start the recall process at that point," said Greg Dietz, assistant superintendent of general administration. "We are one of the few districts that doesn't do blanket RIFs because we want to make sure that we don't lose anybody that has been told they don't have a job."

Maine Teachers Association President Emma Visee told school board members she was disappointed with how little the board discussed the matter before making its decision to layoff teachers.

Visee said the layoffs are premature as there are many teacher retirements in the upcoming year.

"I do understand your need to be fiscally responsible but I think there's some kind of balance to be struck," Visee said. "I haven't seen board members in the classrooms in a long time. I think it's harder to make these number decisions when you see the faces and you see the process."

Wallace responded that the district administration is living up to the union's challenge a year ago when the district laid off more than 130 employees -- including 75 teachers -- to help cut $15 million from its budget. The teachers union at the time would not reopen its contract to negotiate salary reductions.

"You can't have it both ways," Wallace said. "We are trying to be fiscally responsible. This is not an intent to do away any programming."

Officials said tenured teachers who are laid off are placed on a recall list for at least two years.

The school board will have to approve any recall at a future meeting.