SCRANTON -- The Scranton School Board voted Thursday night to furlough 51 educators in an effort to reduce the shortfall in its tentative budget for the next school year.
Even with these layoffs, the district is still facing a $4.5 million deficit in its $161 million spending plan.
Despite the board reducing the number of layoffs from 89 teachers to 51, teachers, parents, and students left the meeting in disgust.
In an attempt to get the district out of its financial distress, 28 tenured teachers and 23 non-tenured teachers will be let go effective August 31 before the start of the 2018 school year.
Before the vote was taken, members of the audience pleaded with the board to reconsider.
"What bothers me is that I feel like it was the first option chosen, and it should be the last option chosen," said teacher Suzanne Furey.
"The mission of the Scranton School District is to quote: educate, inspire, and empower students, end quote. If you are willing to cut teachers before taking a hard look at other areas, then that is not your mission," said teacher Adam McCormick.
The board initially proposed laying off 89 teachers in programs such as art and music. Now, those programs will remain as some of those positions are being kept.
All librarians are being let go, but the superintendent says students will still have access to libraries.
"They will be able to work in the library with their teachers," said Scranton School District Superintendent Alexis Kirijan.
The teachers union president says that's not allowed by the state Department of Education.
"They're saying that the teachers will teach library science to the students. Well, that's against the PDE code, so I don't know how we're going to be doing that," said Rosemary Boland, Scranton Federation of Teachers.
In addition to the teacher layoffs, 40 maintenance and clerical workers will be let go in July.
The district says it must vote on an official 2018 budget by March 28.
The Scranton School District released the following statement following Thursday's vote:
This evening the Scranton School Board voted to accept the administration’s proposed reductions of staff. After many weeks of hard work, the number of positions affected was reduced to 51, approximately 43 percent fewer than the original 89. Prioritizing the diversity of our student’s interests and recognizing that the multifarious tools utilized in a strong public education are of the utmost importance, valuable programs have been preserved in this proposal.
Art, Music and Health/PE will continue to be offered as related arts subjects at the elementary level. Intermediate students will receive one related arts period per day in those subjects as well as Family and Consumer Science, Industrial Arts and Spanish. The high school curriculum will also retain those subjects and, due to course selections, Latin and German will continue to be offered as well. Although library programs are affected, each school will still maintain a full library of books and materials accessible to our students. All secondary schools are equipped with a computer lab for students to complete any type of research for his/her studies.
The proposed furloughs are being made under the PA School Code, which establishes the manner in which necessary reductions of staff shall be accomplished. Additionally, an equal percentage of administrative staff and professional employees may be suspended. The Board has given primary consideration to the staffing needs of the district, its financial stability and most importantly to the effect upon the educational programs provided to our students. The administration has confirmed that state academic standards and teacher certification requirements are met under the proposal.
The Board appreciates the concessions that many staff members and vendors have already made. Work will continue to identify additional measures to reduce the district’s deficit in an effort to mitigate costly borrowing in order to pass a final, balanced budget by the extended deadline of April 1, 2018.
The Board looks forward to continuing to work with Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, the District administration, the Scranton Federation of Teachers, our PFM consultants and the Pennsylvania Department of Education in earnest. This evening’s decision is made with great solemnity, however the Board is confident that this action is crucial to our effort to effect positive, transformational change in our district, our community and in the future we must build for our children.