South Bend teachers discuss looming layoffs

Teachers gathered at Jackson Intermediate Center Tuesday to discuss the nearly 100 layoffs authorized by the school board as the district tries to balance its budget.

"This is the third year that we're looking at RIFs and so you never get used to it," said Jason Zook, President of the South Bend chapter of the National Education Association, which represents South Bend's teachers.

Last week, the board approved $12.2 million in cuts, which includes 96 layoffs. Union and district leaders agreed most of the positions will come through attrition and few teachers will actually be unexpectedly out of a job.

"I know they said they want to cut. Ninety-six positions are what the superintendent is authorized to do. Right now I know for sure we have 58 to 60 retirements so we're not that far away," said Zook. "The biggest question is numbers. what will enrollment be in the fall, so that's of course looming over us, but for right now as teachers there will still be teachers that move away, retire or just decide that they're done teaching this year for whatever and that helps reduce that gap.

In previous years the district had to issue Reduction in Force notices to those who could potentially lose their jobs if the attrition doesn't occur by May 1st however a change in the law gives the district until July 1st to issue notices. Despite the extra time, district officials are hoping to issue notices as early as possible.

"It's a fluid number. We’re certainly working to reduce that number as much as we can, yet kept it in the parameters of our budget," said Superintendent Carole Schmidt. "We want to be fair to people so that they can look for other employment if they want to and so we're going to try to do what we can as early as we can keeping that in mind."

Once the district clears the hurdles of layoffs, more cuts are still looming as it decides which schools to close.

"We're still looking at that possibility for a year down the road and if we get kids back and our enrollment goes up then it’s a different question," said Schmidt.

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