The recall of about 235 District of Columbia teachers who were laid off last summer has turned out to be a bittersweet victory for most since the bulk are only being offered temporary teaching jobs that carry an average $3,000 cut in salary.
"After nine years you would think your job is secure," said Gail Johnson, a reading and math teacher the school system wants to rehire. "This is like a slap in the face for them to offer us less than what we were making before. I'd rather get something in private industry."
Of 180 elementary school teachers being recalled, only 35 are slated to get permanent jobs; of 55 junior and senior high school teachers, only 19 will get permanent positions, school officials said.
Superintendent Vincent E. Reed said he expects "99 percent" of the teachers who were recalled to accept the jobs, even with the reduced pay. However, by last night, only 90 teachers have agreed to return to the system.
Reed said the offer of a temporary job is "better than not coming back at all" and said that for any teacher who refuses to accept the offer, "We'll get somebody else."
School officials found last week that some schools were still lacking classroom teachers on the first two days of school and hastily began recalling teachers they previously had laid off. Parents, physical education instructors, music and art teachers, and reading and math specialists had to substitute in several classrooms where there was no regular teacher.
Reed said he expects all classrooms will have regular teachers today despite the difficulty in rehiring the laid-off teachers.
The teachers who are being recalled were in the pool of 740 instructors laid off over the summer when school officials had to trim their budget by $35 million. The budget cut was ordered by Mayor Marion Barry in an attempt to decrease the citywide budget deficit.
But last month, about 175 teachers with 20 or more years of experience in the system took advantage of a special retirement plan. This, in turn, paved the way for some younger teachers who had been laid off to be rehired.
Both the teachers and Washington Teachers Union officials complained bitterly at a meeting last Friday about the system's offer of temporary jobs at a time when so many teachers with permanent positions have retired.
"It seems like the School Board -- before it gets one problem solved -- is creating another one. The board moved too hastily to (lay off) people. They were the only city agency to do so quickly," said Lyn Williamson, field representative for the teachers union.
Although Superintendent Reed initially proposed the teacher cuts, the School Board approved them.
School personnel officials said they are currently rehiring teachers to replace other teachers who are on leave, or whose positions are paid for through special funding, not the regular operating budget. Such special funding may not be available next year, the officials said.
In addition, school officials, anticipating further budget problems next year, are also reluctant to rehire teachers they may have to cut again.
"It would be foolish to rehire all these people for permanent jobs when we'll have to be looking at (a reduction in force) in the next school year," said School Board President R. Calvin Lockridge.
Many teachers said they were finding it difficult to get jobs in other school systems and in other fields -- particularly the field of management -- and thus felt forced to accept the school system's offer of a temporary job.
"I accepted a position and I'm taking about a $4,000 cut in salary. But it was almost as if I had no other choice . . . It's better than sitting home and getting fat," said one elementary teacher.
Teachers union officials, meanwhile, have complained that school officials could have saved more money, and avoided the teacher shortage in the schools -- by sending more administrators back to the classroom as teachers.
"Forty-five assistant principals were supposed to be cut. I know of only one assistant principal who's gone back to being a teacher," said Harold Fisher, an assistant to union chief William H. Simons.
Fisher also complained that school officials do not have a fair and organized system for deciding which teachers should be laid off and which should be rehired.
"They're skipping over people who should have been (laid off) and they're skipping people who should now be recalled. "It's one big farce," Fisher said.