A second round of layoffs in the Atlantic City school district will be announced Tuesday.
State monitor Gary McCartney said the number of layoffs is still fluctuating. The budget calls for 223.5 jobs to be eliminated and so far 147 non-tenured personnel have been notified their contracts would not be renewed. The leaves about about 75 positions to be cut, but the actual number of people getting layoff notices will likely be lower as retirements come in. So far there have been more than 30 resignations and retirements.
McCartney said staff have been working on the seniority list and will notify affected tenured personnel, union officials and the school board. The board has a meeting Tuesday, and McCartney said he won’t release the list until then after a previous list of positions to be cut was leaked before the personnel in those jobs were notified.
“I’m going to guard that list with my life,” McCartney said. “No one will see it until Tuesday.”
He said the list includes both personnel being terminated, and those being bumped into another job because of seniority. He said there is likely to be some movement of personnel among the schools based on seniority and bumping rights. All those who get layoff notices will be placed on a call-back list to fill any new openings.
The school board on Monday voted 7-3 to reject the proposed 2015-16 budget. But McCartney said he did over-ride the board’s vote because the budget had to be submitted to the county by May 19 so the new tax rate could be struck. The budget includes no tax increase for next year.
Marcia Genova, president of the Atlantic City Education Association, said there is a lot of anxiety about the layoffs and she is glad they will finally be announced.
“People just want to know what is happening so they can start planning,” she said. The New Jersey Education Association has assigned a crisis team to work with the district on any questions about seniority or other legal issues that may come up. She said they are hoping that there are enough retirements to keep the number of layoffs small.
School board president John Devlin, who supported the proposed budget, said he has been impressed with the time and effort McCartney has put in to reviewing every aspect of the budget and finding areas to save money.
“He talks to everyone, he answers their questions,” Devlin sad. “He’s done a lot of research. Layoffs were the last thing he did. I think he was fair. We do hope to bring some people back, but we also have to learn to make do with less.”
At the school board meeting last week, board members seemed surprised to learn of a letter Interim Executive County Superintendent of Schools Thomas McMahon sent to superintendent Donna Haye on Jan. 9 outlining areas where the state had determined the district was already overspending and could cut.
McCartney mentioned the letter after board member Ed Cooper complained that the board did not have much time to review the budget and make suggestions for cuts. McCartney said district officials knew in January that cuts were needed. The state Department of Education also asked the district to prepare a remedial plan in late January, then assigned McCartney in February to assist.
Devlin said board members never saw that letter and if they had, they might have been able to to take action earlier that could have prevented the appointment of a state monitor.
Haye in February submitted her retirement effective May 31 and she has not attended the last three board meetings.
The Jan. 9 letter says district spending is about $7.2 million more than is considered adequate under the state formula. It says the district spends $897 more per student on support services than the state median for a district its size, plus $150 more per student on administrative costs, $82 per student more on legal costs and $1,566 more per student on operations and maintenance.
Among its suggestions were to investigate the high number of aides above what is deemed necessary, look at why the food service program is operating at loss, and reduce the number of custodians. The list of reductions for 2015-16 includes 11 custodians and 29 aides. Food service is privately contracted but is budgeted to meet expenses next year.
McCartney said he is also working with a board committee to come up with a recommendation in June for an interim superintendent to replace Haye until a permanent replacement is hired.
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