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Baltimore city schools hands out pink slips to cut costs

Baltimore City Schools will issue pink slips to central office and school-based staff Tuesday.

Baltimore school officials are eliminating 171 positions as part of cost-cutting measures, but they spared teachers and principals from the budget cuts.

Slightly over 100 employees – including some school police officers and school support staff  — were notified Tuesday they are out of a job effective June 30. The remaining positions cut were already vacant.

Because retirements and resignations may continue into June, school officials said they hope to find other positions for some of the workers handed pink slips.

The school system could not provide a breakdown of how many of those jobs were based in schools or at the central office.

Officials said in a statement that the district-wide reduction in force needed to be taken to address a significant budget gap. When the school system passed its budget May 3, officials said only that it would be difficult to make the budget work without having some impact on schools.

“During the budget development process and community budget forums, the district shared that the budget gap could only be addressed by reducing surplus levels, vendor contracts, and staff,” the statement said.

Some teachers are voicing concern about the cuts.

“I think it is shocking really,” said Kimberly Mooney, who teaches Spanish at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School. “We can’t imagine doing with any less than we have now, so it is a little bit frightening losing that many people.”

Mooney said support staff serve a vital function.

“We have really big class sizes and really not as much support as we need,” she said. “It makes us nervous about whether we will be able to meet the kids’ needs.”

Acting CEO Tammy Turner had said last week that layoffs would be coming. Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English responded that more notice was needed.

As a result, school officials agreed to meet on Monday. English said she learned at that meeting that up to 65 members of the union could be affected. The teachers union represents about 6,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and school-based employees.

“Our only disagreement from our meeting has been on the date of notification. We maintain according to the terms of workforce reduction in our negotiated contract, no one should be notified before Friday June 3, 2016,” English wrote in statement released after the meeting.

Under the terms of the union contract employees who are laid off can apply for other jobs and will be placed on a recall list for up to two years. Members will be eligible for unemployment benefits, English said.

City school officials began laying off school police officers shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to an email obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, head of the city school police union, informed his members in the email that the union is “negotiating a number of creative options to save our members and theirs families from this cut.”

Boatwright also recommended that his officers find jobs in law enforcement elsewhere.

“I strongly recommend that anyone who wants a future in law enforcement; do so at a agency that values your work,” the email said. “It is clear and evident that with a poor pension plan and a below industry pay scale, the Baltimore City School System does not care for it's police officers.”

He also said that the cuts compromised the safety of students and staff. “You can never put a price tag on safety.”


erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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