Janesville School District redefining support staff roles

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Saturday, May 7, 2011
— How will the Janesville School District operate with less support staff next fall? The Janesville School Board will hear some of the details when it meets Tuesday.

A memo contained in the board’s agenda packet outlines how some of the former counselors, librarians and learning-support teachers who recently received layoff notices would be hired for different positions.

The layoff notices included all the librarians, counselors and learning-support teachers. Not all of them will be rehired, the memo states.

“While the total number of positions suggested in this plan is fewer than the former complement, we contend the sharpened focus, the collaborative spirit of the assignment and the quality of individuals hired to these positions will help to answer the question of how we as a district can continue to advance our … goals for raising student achievement with fewer staff,” according to the memo, written by director of instruction Kim Ehrhardt.

The school board made the rehirings possible when, at its last meeting, it voted to use $3.4 million from district reserves for next year’s budget, according to the memo.

Superintendent Karen Schulte said the new positions would probably be a mix of union and non-union jobs. These employees have been a part of the teachers union.

District employees not covered by union contracts are required to pay the employee share of their pension-plan payments.

Administrators and other non-union staff already have begun paying for their pensions. Those payments are expected to save the district about $400,000 in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

A memo from Ehrhardt outlines how the positions would be restructured:

-- Learning-support teachers would be eliminated, but a new position, “academic learning coach,” would be created. The memo does not describe this position. It

says each of these positions would serve more than one school.

-- Former counselors would become “student services specialists” and “will support the social emotional needs of students.”

These positions, too, would serve more than one school. Now, most or all counselors work at only one school.

-- Library media specialists would be hired back and be supported by a new position—innovation specialist.

“The innovation specialist will assist students and staff with advancing 21st century learning experiences,” according to the memo, apparently referring to a variety of electronic communications devices and software that are gaining prominence in the classroom.

Custodian cuts affect most schools in district

Unfamiliar faces will greet Janesville students and staff Monday, May 16.

That’s the day that many custodians will report to work at different schools, and four of them will begin their first full week of being unemployed, officials said.

The change arises from the Janesville School Board’s vote April 26 to eliminate 10 custodial positions to help balance the 2011-12 budget.

The budget year doesn’t start until July 1, but officials got a head start in saving money by imposing the layoffs now.

Four custodians are losing their jobs, said Manager of Employee Relations Angel Tullar. Their last day will be Friday, May 13.

Other custodians are moving from their current full-time positions to part-time and therefore are losing their health insurance, Tullar said.

The district eliminated the full-time equivalent of 10 positions, but the people in those positions did not necessarily lose their jobs.

If a person whose job was eliminated had more seniority than someone who still had a job, the more senior worker could bump the less senior worker out of that job, as provided in union contract rules, said district CFO Keith Pennington.

Some workers have used their bumping rights but could only do so by bumping from a full-time to part-time position, officials said.

Officials met with custodians and their union representatives on Monday to explain the process, Pennington said.

A worker who was bumped might have had more seniority than yet another worker, so the bumping in some cases ended up affecting several custodians, and that’s why so many custodians will move to different schools, Tullar said.

Most schools in the district are affected, Tullar said.

Other staff members will no doubt notice the change. In many cases, custodians are familiar faces who know and are friendly with staff and students.

The job cuts are expected to save the district about $410,000 in the coming school year.

Steve Eichman, who manages the custodians, told the school board that the level of cleanliness will be reduced but should remain satisfactory.

When asked at the April 26 school board meeting how soon the layoffs might occur, Eichman said “earlier rather than later.”

The union contract specifies that custodians who were laid off have recall rights for 12 months, based on seniority, so some workers could return if others retire or resign.

If you go

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. A number of budget-balancing measures for 2011-12 are on the agenda for possible action, including:

-- Cutting most of the capital improvements budget, $1 million.

-- Appointing an “interim principal” to oversee both Harrison and Kennedy elementary schools.

-- Cutting 15 secretaries, clerks or aides.

-- Increasing student fees.

-- Cutting textbook purchases, $200,000.

-- Cutting the middle school police officers, $125,000.

-- Cutting one full-time-equivalent nurse, $56,000.

-- Imposing an annual fee on staff members who use portable heaters, refrigerators, fans and other devices at school, generating about $1,000.

Last updated: 5:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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