Broward schools to lay off 568 teachers, 737 other workers

The Broward school district is delivering layoff notices to more than 1,300 employees to help make up a massive budget gap.

(FEDERALJACK)   As the school year draws to a close this week, more than a thousand Broward schools employees are finding out that their summer break might turn into a permanent one.

The Broward school district, struggling to make up at least a $130 million budget shortfall, announced Monday that 568 teachers are being laid off. Another 737 noninstructional employees, including aides, administrators and secretaries, are also on the layoff list.

Superintendent Jim Notter called this era of cutbacks and layoffs “the most painful and heart-wrenching time that I’ve gone through in my 37 years as a public education servant.”

District officials hope to recall as many teachers and employees as possible as positions open up, but that was little consolation to those who found themselves contemplating an uncertain future on Monday.

“Luckily, I started a massage therapy program last year and I just am finishing it now,” said teacher Erica Coulter, who found out Monday that she was laid off for the second year in a row. “I’ll have my license by the end of the summer.”

Coulter, 30, lost her fourth-grade teaching job at Forest Hills Elementary last year. Shortly before the start of school this year, she was offered a job at Floranada Elementary.

There was another scare in the spring when she was put on a surplus list, followed by a reprieve, followed by Monday’s official layoff notice. Still, Coulter said she hoped to be called back to another teaching position in time for next school year.

“Although it would be nice to get angry and say: `Forget it, I’m going to do something else,’ it is a good job,” she said. “I’m doing this job because I love working with kids.”

Notter said he hopes to recall more than 300 teachers before school starts again, and maybe as many as 400. Those jobs will open as teachers retire, fail to renew certification by June 30, decide to extend a leave or choose not to return for any other reason.

Last year, all but 19 of the 394 teachers who were laid off were later offered jobs, although about 60 declined.

Districts throughout Florida are laying off employees or considering layoffs, said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. He said most are trying to avoid cuts to the classroom to meet the law that limits class sizes, which is becoming more strict this fall.

“Nearly all districts have [given notice to] people that they may or may not be brought back,” Blanton said. “A substantial number of districts have told people other than teachers: `You are not coming back.’ ”

In Miami-Dade, officials have frozen hiring, made deep cuts at the central office level and taken other measures over the last 1 ½ years to avoid cutting teachers.

The majority of Broward’s laid-off teachers — 510 — are in their first three years of employment in the district. Many, like Coulter, went through the layoff and recall process last year.

Of the 737 nonteaching jobs, the maintenance, construction and transportation departments were hardest hit. Teacher aides, administrators, technical support workers and secretaries were also laid off.

Throughout the district, principals have been asked to trim 6 percent of their budgets; heads of other departments, such as curriculum and transportation, had to cut at least 16 percent.

Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo called the layoffs “shameful” on the part of the district and said union suggestions on waste-cutting measures were not being taken seriously.

“The district knows how to boast about it being a grade-A school system and wants to raise the flags on high and boast about that, but when it comes to really caring about their employees, they get an F for not taking care of their personnel,” Santeramo said.

Notter placed the blame on a lack of money from the state.

“We’re seeing the collateral damage caused with years of underfunding of public education,” he said.

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