Newark school board to district: send more details on proposed budget

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 31, 2015

Newark Public Schools Advisory Board sent a letter to Superintendent Cami Anderson outlining several concerns about the district's proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

 

NEWARK — Newark Public Schools Advisory Board questioned this week the school district's proposed 2016 fiscal budget, which calls for teacher layoffs based partly on performance.

In a letter addressed to Superintendent Cami Anderson, the board said the district did not provide enough information about the budget during last week's public meeting for the elected officials to make a decision.

"The plan that was provided did not contain the level of detail needed for Board members to make an assessment," board chair Rashon Hasan wrote in a letter dated March 30, 2015. "The strategy did not contain any estimates for the proposed number of FTE separations (personnel) needed to make the district's target for $20M savings in the central office."

Hasan continued to say the board is concerned about the number of employees with a special assistant title, who make up more than 40 percent of total staff salaries of $75,000 or more.

"Our board is concerned with the district's alignment and use of the special assistant title," the letter said. "It is imperative that the district provide a plan to use human resources more effectively."

The district unveiled a budget last week which calls for $20 million in cuts to its central office including non-instructional staff, supplies and professional services; The district is also looking to slash $10 million of its budget that pays teachers.

But the district said last week it will not know the exact number of employees that will be laid off until after it tallies the open positions and the employees that have left voluntarily.

"We don't want to give someone a pink slip and come back a few months later and say 'never mind because we saw these separations,'" Gabrielle Wyatt, the district's executive director of strategy, said during the board meeting.

The district also said that it would prefer to base any teacher layoffs, in part, on performance rather than seniority alone.

According to Newark Public Schools, if the district had initiated layoffs during the 2012-2013 school year the majority of schools would have lost 20 percent or more of their effective or highly effective teachers.

The district will seek a waiver from the state Department of Education to upend the longstanding "first in, last out" rules governing teacher layoffs, officials said.

Under the terms of the waiver that the district requested from the state last year, teachers would be placed into performance categories from lowest to highest. Then the district would then rank the teachers within a given performance category first by tenure status and then by length of service.

Thus non-tenured teachers who are in the lowest performance category would be laid off first.

Newark Public Schools has not laid off any teachers since Anderson assumed the superintendent role in 2011, according to the district.

The board's letter outlines other concerns about the proposed 2016 fiscal budget including the district's proposed education classroom setup for special needs students and the disparity in length of the school day between charter schools and public schools.

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