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Woonsocket considers mass teacher layoffs

February 22, 2012

Woonsocket school officials have scheduled a special meeting tonight to consider terminating their entire teaching staff.  School Committee Chairwoman Anita McGuire Forcier says the problem is not teacher performance, it’s a budget deficit.

“We fell off the financial cliff,” Forcier said, referring to a deficit expected to top $3 million dollars. The full extent of the deficit is still unknown.

“We have numerous people helping us out in our financial department,” Forcier said. “However, they need more time.”

Unfortunately, they don’t have more time. That’s because of a state law that requires school districts to notify teachers by March 1st if there’s a chance they won’t have a job in September.

Still, teachers’ union leaders say they don’t understand why mass terminations are necessary. The district is certain to need at least a few teachers in September to serve its roughly 8,000 students.

“You’re throwing the entire system into chaos because you don’t know what the extent of the fiscal hole is,” said Woonsocket Teachers’ Guild President Jeffrey Partington. “That doesn’t make sense.”

Partington says the problem is not school department spending, it’s a lack of revenue. He says teachers made millions of dollars in concessions during their last contract negotiation, and the district has not asked to reopen that contract, which expires in 2013.

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