WOONSOCKET – The School Committee will consider recalling another group of laid-off teachers tonight at 5 in the Hamlet Middle School as it wraps up work on staffing for the coming school year.
The panel laid off 59 of its teachers in February to reserve leeway for making staffing changes that might be required in finalizing next year’s budget. The School Committee has already rehired 36 of the teachers during earlier committee action leaving 23 still on layoff.
The state Budget Commission running city affairs also approved the recommended earlier recalls.
Under state law, teachers must be notified by March 1 if they are to be laid off for the coming school year and can apply for unemployment through the summer if the layoffs are not rescinded by the end of the school year, June 19.
School Committeeman Christopher Roberts said he had not yet seen the list of teachers up for rehiring but believed most would be in special education.
The Budget Comm-ission had requested the department conduct an operational audit of the special education department to ensure it was properly meeting state mandate requirements, staffing classrooms appropriately and also considering potential cost-savings in out-of-district placements and in-house services, according to Roberts.
Although the department technically doesn’t have to rehire the teachers until they are needed, the potential for unemployment costs does support rehiring teachers who will be needed early on.
“If you don’t do it by a certain time, you could end up paying unemployment costs,” Roberts said.
School Committeeman John Donlon said whatever action the committee takes will depend on the administration’s review of student census figures and staffing needs for the coming year.
“We have to know how many students we will have, to know how many teachers we will need,” he said.
The committee will need information on how rehires will be funded and expects School Supt. Giovanna Donoyan will be providing that information as part of her recommendation to the panel.
Jeff Partington, president of the Woonsocket Teachers Guild, said Wednesday that he hopes the panel will recall the laid-off teachers but could not predict whether it will.
“As far as I know, the budget that was presented to the School Committee supports every position that was in the budget last year,” he said.
The total of 482 teaching positions in the current budget resulted from the panel rescinding about 21 positions it had laid off, as school was set to begin in the fall, he noted.