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Woonsocket approves mass teacher firings

February 23, 2012

More than 600 Woonsocket teachers and other school employees will return from this week’s February vacation to face layoff notices.

The school committee approved a plan last night to send pink slips to every teacher in the district, as it stares down a deficit of unknown proportions. The final vote was 3-2.

School Committee Chair Anita McGuire Forcier acknowledges that the threat of layoffs will be hard on teachers, but she said the decision wasn’t personal. The district needs time to figure out its budget, and state law requires layoff notices to go out by March 1st.

“I’d like to believe the majority of our teachers realize the predicament we’re in,” Forcier said. “The layoff notices have nothing to do with teacher performance.”

Woonsocket ran up a $2.7 million deficit in the last fiscal year and school officials say the picture for this year looks even worse.
“This is not a cost problem, this is a revenue problem,” said Woonsocket Teachers’ Guild President Jeffrey Partington. “The city has historically not put in enough money into the schools to make it run.”

Partington says it’s hard to understand why Woonsosocket would take such a drastic step, since one way or another it will have to staff classrooms in the fall. He adds that teachers have already made significant contract concessions.

“We’ve given up salary, we’ve redesigned our health care plan to be one of the least costly in the state,” Partington said. “Now they’re coming back and saying oops, we still have a problem.”

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