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Originally published May 12, 2009 at 7:39 PM | Page modified May 12, 2009 at 8:36 PM

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Layoffs at Seattle School District: Letter sent to teachers

Seattle Public Schools notified some of its teachers Tuesday that they won't have jobs next year. This is the body of a letter sent to teachers Tuesday, May 12, 2009.

Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff:

This message is sent to keep our staff informed of the budget situation and communication that will be sent to our employees this week.

On behalf of the leadership team at Seattle Public Schools, I first want to express my sincere regret for the confusion that was generated over the weekend related to the SEA contract. We know that this caused distress for some of our staff, and we are trying very hard to make sure that staff hears important news directly from us first.

In summary, the legislature reduced the number of learning improvement days (LID) days from two days in 2008-09 to one day in 2009-10, reducing funding to SPS by $1 million. We have been in discussions with SEA leadership about this issue and we will continue to discuss this matter with SEA leadership. We have not yet come to a resolution on this issue.

If there is 'probable cause,' or a likelihood to believe that the number of contract days and therefore compensation could be reduced, then Seattle Public Schools is obligated by law to inform staff, individually, by May 15. Based on this legal obligation, last Friday certificated employees were sent a first-class letter describing the change in next year's contract from 182 to 181 days. It was our intention to hold those letters until this week when we could have further discussion with SEA, but the letters were mailed on Friday and received by many staff on Saturday rather than held until this week. Employees will receive a second copy of the letter by certified mail as required by law. Because we know that picking up a certified letter may take some time for people who are not at home when the mail is delivered, we want staff to have the contents of the letter as soon as possible. Emails to our staff on Friday and over the weekend also describe the need for this reduction of next year's contract by one day.

Closing a $34 million shortfall requires a combination of strategies. We have kept you updated about the decisions made to date, including reduction in central office staff, hiring freezes, increased efficiencies in operations such as transportation and nutrition services, closing school buildings, a responsible use of reserves, and freezing COLAs. We briefed the board last week about the need for a potential reduction in force (RIF) to now take place.

This is a very painful decision to have to make, and a reduction in force of our certificated staff is made only as a result of such an historic reduction in our state funding. We know that valuable staff and their families are affected by this news, and we want our staff to know that their dedication in the classroom is at the core of our work to support every student's success.

Because the final reductions in state funding for K-12 are now known, it is clear that it is beyond our means to renew the contracts of all of our certificated staff. We must inform a number of our certificated staff that we do not expect at this time to be able to renew their contracts for 2009-2010. Principals whose staff will be directly affected by this RIF are in the process of informing their staff. These individuals will also receive a letter this week. When this process is complete, we will release more detailed information.

It is always our hope, and has often been the case in the past, that a certain number of certificated staff could be called back after a RIF based on retirements and resignations as staff move or leave for other reasons. Our goal throughout the budget process is to minimize personnel reductions to the greatest extent possible.

Support for our staff is available in the following ways:

• The Employee Assistance Program (EAP), 206 252 4800, a confidential service available to all Seattle Public Schools staff. The Web site includes an array of information handouts that may be helpful to you. http://inside.seattleschools.org/area/eap/index.dxml

• A workshop entitled Resource Program for Laid Off Employees has been scheduled for May 21, 4:00 p.m., JSCEE.

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Please know that we deeply regret that the district must implement a reduction in force at this time, and we wish the best for all of those who are affected. I will continue to keep you informed during this most difficult budget process.

Sincerely,

Don

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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