Teacher layoffs higher than usual

A total of 57 layoffs have been issued to teachers in the Coast Mountains School District.

A total of 57 layoffs have been issued to teachers in the Coast Mountains School District.

This is a significant jump from last year’s 36 teachers layoffs and Karen Andrews, president at the Terrace District Teachers’ Union said this is the highest they have been in a while. Human resource manager for the school district Balwinder Rai explained that despite general enrolment decline in the past two years the district has been maintaining services at status quo, something he said only been only possible by dipping into prior year reserves.

“So this year becomes the year of making adjustments to catch up, and that’s why it’s a larger number of layoffs than usual, and we’re all feeling the pain of that adjustment.” Rai added that an unusually low number of retirements affected layoffs as well, saying this year’s retirement number of five positions is typically two to three times higher.

Rai also estimates there will be about another 10 support staff positions laid off as well, although he said that number is still in negotiations. Declining enrolment is not a new concern for the Coast Mountains School District. It has been coping with dwindling student numbers since 1997, when there were more than 8,000 students in Coast Mountains schools.

Currently that number sits around 4,800.

“Funding keeps coming down as student enrolment comes down – those are the two factors as to why we need to issue these layoffs,” Rai said.

Thirty-four of the positions have been re-posted and Rai expects additional spots to open up as teachers retire or resign.

“It’s an ever changing field right now,”

Rai said, explaining it would be premature to say exactly how many teachers will be rehired. Andrews said there will be a cut of 12.6 teaching positions and that that number was stated in the district’s core staffing plan passed at the April 13 school board meeting.

Board Chair for the district, Barry Pankhurst, said cutting the positions is a combined reaction to both declining enrolment as well as an effort to balance the annual budget, which had to be supplemented  by $1.5 million for the 2010/2011 year.

“We had to find a way to balance the budget, and one of the major contributing factors is the amount of staff that we have,” Pankhurst said.

“Declining enrolment is a major factor on it, and we’re trying to become more efficient and use our dollars more wisely,” Pankhurst went on. “There were other cuts to other things too,” he said.

Andrews is concerned about how these cuts will affect students in the classroom.

She is especially worried about the special needs services, including English-as-a-second-language support, learning assistants and resource room teachers.

“We are also concerned about teacher librarians, and then of course with these cuts it does mean larger classes,” Andrews said.

“Ultimately it’s the students that are going to suffer because educational services are going to be cut back.”