If the process happens as planned, teachers in the West York School District to be furloughed could find out as early as January 2014 that they need to look for another job.
District Solicitor Jeffrey Litts presented information about the legal process for furloughing professional and support staff in the district to the school board members. Litts said there are different processes for cutting the two types of staff members.
The cuts would go into effect at the end of the school year.
Professional staff members can be furloughed for only four reasons, according to the school code set by the state Department of Education. Three are provisions Litts said do not apply to the district: The curtailment of an educational program, the consolidation of schools and the reorganization of a school district are not relevant.
But the West York district can furlough staff members if it shows a substantial decrease in the district's enrollment.
Litts said the education department does not quantify a "substantial decrease," and leaves that discretion to the school board. But he said a typical decrease in such cases can be between 8 and 9 percent.
The solicitor said between the 2007-2008 and 2012-2013 school years, there was a decrease in enrollment by 332 students, roughly 10 percent of the population. In that time, there was a 1 percent decline in professional staff, according to Litts.
Litts said he will be working with human resources director Beth Thieret to realign the staff based on seniority.
Teachers with the least seniority in the district will be furloughed first, Litts said.
Seniority is calculated based on factors such as how many years teachers have been in the district, whether they worked part-time or full-time hours and what areas their certifications are in, among others.
Thieret said the district completed a personnel audit over the summer from the education department to update its information about teacher certifications. The teachers were given an opportunity to verify that information, Thieret said.
Litts said professional staff members who are furloughed have a right to a hearing in the presence of the school board.
Support staff: Support staff can be furloughed for "reasons of economy," according the school code, and are not required to be ranked by seniority, nor are they entitled to a board hearing, Litts said.
The district is being careful to make sure the seniority list is correct before notifying staff, said Superintendent Emilie Lonardi.
"This is such a difficult and emotional place to be, and I want to be absolutely right," Lonardi said.
Lonardi gave a brief overview to the board about what the furlough schedule could look like, if the board decides to approve the cuts.
Lonardi said the administration will meet in December with representatives of the education department, the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the West York Area Education Association to go over the seniority list.
Following those meetings and deeming the list to be accurate, the administration will meet with teachers in January 2014 to notify them of their furlough. The school board will most likely vote to approve the staff reductions in February 2014.
Litts acknowledged it is difficult for teachers to find work in the public sector, and said the quick process is "out of respect" for those who will need to look for other jobs.
"We want to try to give people as much time as possible to plan," Litts said.
The presentation matched the information already given to the teachers union, West York Area Education Association Vice President Jessica Oakhem said after the meeting.
"There were no surprises," Oakhem said.
Litts said the furlough process will not be cemented until June 2014, when the furloughs actually take place. If other West York teachers unexpectedly leave their positions for retirement or other reasons, some furloughs could be rescinded.
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