The school board is scheduled to vote Dec. 19 on layoffs recommended by Rochester City School Superintendent Terry Dade as he tries to avert a potential $64.8 million shortfall by the end of the school year.
The reductions would amount to 5% of staff and would be broken down as follows in terms of full-time equivalents: 18 administrators, 168 teachers, 38 paraprofessionals and teacher assistants, and 63 hourly civil service workers.
If approved, the layoffs would begin in January. When staffers leave would depend on the notification required by their contracts. Dade said some units have a two-week notification period and others have 90 days.
Dade announced the timeline at a board meeting Nov. 26 and reviewed them for the media Nov. 27.
The announcement was the most recent in the budget saga, which RCSD made public in September after an external audit showed an approximately $30 million shortfall from the 2018-19 school year. Examination of the 2019-20 budget showed areas of overspending and underbudgeting that if left unaddressed, would create the potential for a cumulative $64.8 million hole.
Dade started as superintendent in July and has repeatedly said he never expected to be involved in such a budget crisis. He has pledged to minimize its effects on the classroom. He has eliminated $28 million in non-staff related spending, such as some after-school programs and professional development. He said he is working with the city on possibly applying $10 million earmarked for capital projects to the deficit, and he said he plans to lobby Albany for about $20 million.
The 5% staff reduction accounts for $6.8 million in potential savings, according to his plan. He said the district has more than 3,600 teachers and 300 administrators.
“There’s only so many positions that can be cut in each group that will allow us to continue to function as an effective organization,” he said.
According to the timeline:
- On Dec. 2, Dade will send proposed staff reduction to the board.
- On Dec. 3, Dade and the board will review the reductions.
- On Dec. 4, the district’s human resources department will send letters to affected staff.
- From Dec. 3-6, the board can submit questions about the proposed reduction plan.
- From Dec. 6-9, the administration will respond to those questions.
- On Dec. 10, an update will be presented to the board’s finance committee.
- On Dec. 19, the board will vote on the reduction plan.
Dade said criteria for staff reductions are complex. He said mandated services such as special education and English-language learning are not negotiable. Class sizes must remain within contractual limits, and that seniority and tenure are factors.
When Dade earlier in November presented the prospect of layoffs as part of his overall plan to reduce the looming gap, he faced questions of equity. He said demographic data for the proposed staff cuts would be available, likely around Dec. 10.
At that time, he said 5% reduction still would allow the district to meet its education goals. He presented scenarios with greater staff reductions to gain more savings but said those could have devastating results.
Dade said that as layoffs became part of the plan, he’d heard accusations that he’s balancing the budget on the backs of teachers.
“I completely disagree with that sentiment,” he said. “It hurts me as an educator and a teacher at heart. I feel its incumbent upon on me to share facts as we move forward through this very difficult process.”
Dade said the layoffs would not significantly increase class sizes and the plan “maintains high-quality teachers in front of our kids each and every day.”
Dade acknowledged there could be an effect on morale but said it’s not a significant concern.
“What I’ve stated and will continue to state is as the adults who are leading this organization and leading classrooms and school buildings, our obligation is to put adults to the side and make students first. … We have to hold ourselves to exceptionally high expectations through the good times and the bad to make sure we’re providing a high-quality education to our students.”