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10 teachers laid off in Berlin

April 14, 2010
BERLIN — The school department told the city council they would be laying off 10 teachers at the end of the year, in order to meet the council's goal of a flat budget.

Pink slips went out on Friday, Superintendent Corinne Cascadden said, distributed according to seniority.

They laid off three elementary school teachers, two math teachers, two English teachers, one science teacher, one social studies teacher and one health occupation teacher, she said.

The staff reduction, plus cutting three unfilled positions and a $210,000 reduction in the out of district placements line item reduced the overall department budget by roughly $1 million, she said, bringing it in line with the previous fiscal year.

School board chair Mitch Couture said the department is trying to figure out if they can offer incentives for teachers to retire early, in order to open positions to younger teachers, some of whom were laid off. The department would like to use any budget surplus they have from this year toward that effort, he said, but since the plan is still in the early phases they aren't sure how much interest there is.

But, he said, even if the school board is able to convince some older teachers to retire, however, class size is going to be affected.

"Class sizes will go up, guaranteed," he said.

Some classes will have 27 or 28 students, he said, instead of the low to mid-twenties they have now.

Even the out of district placement reduction is a gamble, Superintendent Cascadden said, because they took out $100,000 they normal over-budget in case a new student moves to town who has special needs. The reduction also includes the schools taking back a student who had been placed out of district, with the hope the school can handle that student's needs now, she said.

The lay offs hit some of the teachers hard, she said; some of them had bought houses and settled in Berlin and others had families to support.

Mayor Paul Grenier said he supported the idea of using the surplus funds to try to convince teachers to retire.

Longtime teachers can have salaries nearly double that of a new teacher, so convincing them to retire would both open the door to rehire laid off teachers and reduce the department's salary obligations.

Superintendent Cascadden said the department hoped to get a better idea of how many people would be interested in the early retirement option within the next three weeks. Then they would have an idea of how much it would cost the city, she said. It would also allow the department to determine if it could hire any of the laid off teachers off, she said, before they find new jobs. The department will let the council know as soon as they have any information about numbers, she said.

But either way, she said, unless the council increases their budget, class size will be going up.

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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