The Washington Post

About 100 Loudoun County public school employees poised to lose jobs

In the coming weeks, hundreds of Loudoun County Public Schools employees will see their positions affected by nearly $38 million in cuts to the system’s fiscal 2015 budget, and about 100 workers appear likely to lose their jobs, according to school officials.

The reductions came after the county Board of Supervisors voted last month to adopt a fiscal 2015 county budget that raised education spending by about $70 million, but still fell tens of millions of dollars short of fully funding the School Board’s request.

The School Board reconciled its budget April 22, sparing several threatened schools and programs from the cut list after a flood of impassioned responses from the public. But the reductions made by the School Board, including the elimination of foreign language programs at elementary and middle schools, left more than 280 jobs at risk, school officials said.

Wayde Byard, spokesman for the public schools, said the system’s personnel department has worked “nonstop” to find placements for all employees — including middle school deans, Spanish teachers, English language learner assistants, administrative interns, math facilitators, library assistants and technology assistants — whose positions were jeopardized.

By filling open positions created by retirements, resignations and the opening of three new schools, all but about 100 employees were expected to be placed elsewhere in the system, Byard said. About 27 Spanish teachers are among those who could not be reassigned to open positions, he said.

Because of the anticipated reshuffling as some staff members are moved to different schools and departments, officials expect to contact more than 1,000 employees who will be affected by the changes.

Such an impact is unprecedented in recent memory, Byard said.

“It’s been probably more than 20 years since this last happened,” he said. “It’s very rare here. With the expansion and growth in the county, we’ve been in hiring mode now for a very long time. This is new territory for us.”

The deadline for letting employees know their jobs have been eliminated is June 15, Byard said, to allow for the possibility of additional openings created by retirements or resignations in the coming weeks.

“These are good people, a lot of them have worked for us for quite some time, and this is something we do not want to do,” he said. “Of course, the thing about hard decisions it that people always say ‘make hard decisions — but not that one.’ ”

The school system acknowledged the anticipated effect of the reconciled budget in a prepared statement Friday, which emphasized the school system’s rate of growth and cost-per-pupil ranking.

In the past five years, the school system’s population has grown 28.5 percent, officials said, with an estimated 73,233 students expected in September. The system’s cost per pupil for fiscal 2015 is $12,195, a 4.8 percent increase over the current level, but still the fourth-lowest average in the Washington area — ahead of only Prince George’s County, Manassas Park City and Prince William County, the statement said.

Throughout a particularly intense budget process this year, members of the School Board and the county Board of Supervisors often collided over the needs of the county’s fast-growing school system. The School Board sought the supervisors’ approval of a $949 million budget — money necessary to make up for deferred costs and to keep up with the addition of new students and new schools, school officials said.

But the supervisors made it clear that they thought increasing the school system’s funding by nearly $70 million was enough to fund its top priorities, while avoiding raising taxes for Loudoun property owners.

“The bottom line, in my opinion, is the fact that the Board of Supervisors would not work with the School Board,” said Joey Mathews, president of the Loudoun Education Association, an advocacy group representing thousands of public school employees. “The School Board has unanimously passed a needs-based budget, and the Board of Supervisors did not compromise at all.”

The result, he said, will have a profound impact on the affected educators. He cited a foreign language classroom assistant who contacted the association and said that she was the only source of medical benefits for her husband and children.

“If she loses her job, they all lose their medical coverage,” he said.

And for those who do lose their jobs, Mathews added, finding work nearby in time for the upcoming school year won’t be easy.

“What if they don’t find out for sure until June, and by then all the other counties have already started filling positions?” he said. “The longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be.”

Mathews said he was particularly frustrated because the cuts should have been avoidable, particularly in a county that holds the title of wealthiest in the nation.

“People get tired of hearing about [Loudoun] being the richest county, but the economy here is a lot better than a lot of places,” he said. “And yet we’re going through this situation. . . . Overall, it’s just a mess.”

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.


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