WESTERLY — Nine teachers received nonrenewal notices this week and more could follow as the School Committee works to accommodate a lower than requested town appropriation to schools for the 2019-20 budget as well as declining student enrollment.
The teachers include two secondary special education teachers, two school nurse teachers, an elementary school teacher, an elementary/middle school special education and science teacher, an early childhood special education teacher, a secondary English teacher, and a middle grades/secondary English teacher. The School Committee approved the nonrenewals, which were recommended by Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau, during its meeting on Wednesday. Additional nonrenewals might be recommended during the committee's May 22 meeting, Garceau said.
The committee had proposed a $60,437,244 budget, a $2.45 million increase from the current $57,983,040 spending plan, but the council adopted a final budget that reduced the school district's budget request by $1,325,000.
Another factor affecting the nonrenewals is an early retirement incentive offered by the district, which 10 teachers accepted. Garceau said that in some cases, including those of a music teacher and a physical education teacher, the positions will not be filled. Rather than eliminate programs, Garceau said some teachers will be asked to take on additional work.
"There will be some reshuffling and some people will be asked to do a little more and stretch a little thinner," Garceau said Friday.
On Wednesday, Garceau again addressed what he called a misconception. "I think it's important for people to recognize that despite what may be said or people may hear or read, the district is working to align our resources to reflect declining enrollments," Garceau said.
To illustrate the point, Garcea repeated the following list of positions that were eliminated before the start of the current school year: half-time special education teacher, bus driver, bus monitor, custodian, part-time social worker, math teacher, full-time special education teacher, two Grade 3 teachers, kindergarten teacher, Grade 1 teacher, part-time instructional technology field technician, data analyst, and learning academy director of teaching and learning at Tower Street School Community Center.
The following positions were added in the the current budget: finance business assistant, medical pathway teacher and transportation dispatcher, and one elementary school teacher.
To date the following positions are set to be eliminated, but have not yet been voted on, under the 2019-20 budget: 10 paraprofessionals, music teacher, physical education teacher, two full-time and one half-time clerical positions, half-time custodian, two elementary school teachers, social studies teacher, English teacher, family consumer science teacher, special education teacher, technology support worker, human resources administrative employee, and a part-time speech language pathologist.
Committee chairwoman Diane Chiaradio Bowdy said the district had reduced the equivalent of 34 full-time positions during the last two years. "I'm glad you talked about the positions that we've cut because frankly over the last three weeks we've been pretty much accused of not cutting staff while our enrollment is dropping," Chiaradio Bowdy said to Garceau.
In compliance with provisions of the teachers union contract, teachers with the least seniority receive nonrenewal notices.