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Lake Orion teachers facing layoffs



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May 15, 2013 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

For the past few weeks Lake Orion teachers have been warned the pink slips are coming.

The initial target date was May 8 but a few days prior to the release, teachers were notified of a delay.

Human resources personnel, principals and other professionals within Lake Orion schools have been strapped for time in handing over layoff recommendations, hoping some final remedies would minimize the numbers.

Names will be officially released at the Board of Education next week. Teachers are expected to be notified a few days prior to the board meeting.

In a statement made on May 10, Superintendent Marion Ginopolis said: "Layoff decisions are never easy to make. We haven't finalized our layoff recommendations yet, but will be presenting them to the School Board on May 22 for approval. We're very sensitive to handling these situations professionally. Our human resources team and teachers' union have been working closely together to make sure all affected staff members will be notified in a respectful manner well in advance of the board meeting."

At this point they have to save money, said Jeffrey Faber, president of the Lake Orion Education Association, and physical education teacher at Oakview Middle School.

"Now we are at the point where it's way more painful because we've done all the basic things we could," he said.

Among the basics include looking for grant opportunities. In addition, teachers have taken cuts to their pensions and retirement, pay freezes, and made concessions on teaching contracts. Other employee groups also have made concessions.

They have also taken some creative steps. The Schools of Choice option for grades K-2 could potentially bring in $1.3 to $1.4 million to the estimated $4.2 million deficit. This could allow for some teachers to be brought back once enrollment is known in Schools of Choice.

Teachers also have been offered a severance incentive in early April that could also reduce some of the layoffs. Different than a retirement incentive, teachers can take advantage of it without actually having to retire.

The hopes are to reward veteran teachers who feel they might be ready to leave, allowing newer teachers to stay.

"One way or another, if someone willingly retires, somebody out there can keep their job, and those people don't want to lose their job. Nobody wants to," Faber said.

Layoffs have been delayed partially to see the effects of this incentive.

"A lot of times people aren't ready to go yet, and need some time to think it over, so there is a waiting period before people have to decide," he said. They have about a month to make a decision.

"A lot of people come to me and it's confidential at this point about who is interested or not, but its an emotional decision."

Teachers are going through a range of emotions, Faber said.

"Teachers are very compassionate towards other teachers and thinking, 'oh boy if I go maybe I can save somebody else.'" he said.

"They're also thinking the profession isn't as fun as it used to be. There's a lot more politics involved, and the state continually puts new rules on us that makes it difficult to do our job."

Faber said teaching isn't the way it was, een a few years ago, with all the new reforms the state mandates.

"It's been more difficult with far less compensation," he said. "We can't cut much more, and that's the hard thing. We've been cut to the bone three years in a row, and this is the worst one ever.

The absent revenue was a consequence of state executive orders that slashed state funding by $470 per student. Due to the cuts, Lake Orion has received $7.2 million less over the past two years.

"We don't want more money, we just want them to stop taking money," Faber said. "Let us have our consistent money. Give the districts what they had back in 2010. We'd be alright. We wouldn't be cutting programs. We wouldn't be losing the great people we have."

Elementary students used to have Spanish in the classroom a few years ago, which was cut for funding issues. More programs like these will also be cut next year, he said, which is a direct takeaway from our students.

"If the money is not there, that's when they start cutting programs," he said.

The kids are the first priority of everybody. "There are lots of checks and balances to try and not impact them as minimally as possible."

Although layoffs affect all teachers, not just the comrades receiving pink slips, Faber can see the positive.

Lake Orion, he said, is handling layoffs with compassion.

"We could be fighting each other. The teachers and the administrators and the board could all be at it with each other, negative with each other, but the best thing that I've seen, the thing that makes me feel good, is knowing that none of us want this, and we are trying to do this as good as possible," he said. "So in many ways this is going to bring us together, it's going to hurt our schools, but as a group we are more unified than ever."

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