Scranton Board Votes To Eliminate Positions

August 31, 2018 GMT

SCRANTON — Sixteen Scranton teachers officially lost their jobs tonight.

After the Scranton School Board failed to get a majority to approve the layoffs earlier this week, directors voted 9-0 to take the final step in eliminating the jobs.

Meanwhile, the teachers union contends tonight’s vote was illegal and will seek a court injunction to stop the layoffs.

The financially struggling district originally planned to lay off as many as 89 teachers, and the number dropped to about 50 after the board passed this year’s budget. Within the last month, the number dropped from 25 to 16, after the district looked at staffing needs and retirements.

Although the school board passed a resolution in January to lay off teachers and also passed a budget that accounted for a reduction in staff, state school code requires a final vote after teachers are afforded the right to a hearing.

A motion on Monday failed 3-3, with some directors questioning the process and why as many as 200 evaluations were initially missing. Those issues have all been resolved, officials said.

Eight directors were present at tonight’s meeting, and Paul Duffy voted by phone.

With the plan, the district eliminated all librarians and will reduce students’ exposure to classes such as art, music and physical education. The district is still working on determining how much money the layoffs will save, Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., said. Many of the laid-off teachers will work for the district as long-term substitutes, she said. As job openings become available, the affected employees will be called back, she said.

The layoffs are one of many ways the board is trying to find savings, board President Barbara Dixon said.

“None of us wanted to do this, but we are making the move toward solvency,” she said. “We all worked hard this year to do as much as we could.”

Rosemary Boland, president of Scranton Federation of Teachers, said she will seek an injunction to stop the layoffs because of discrepancies with voting procedures. Because Monday night’s motion failed, the board could not automatically vote on the same motion.

Solicitor John Minora said the board only had to take a vote to renew, not a vote to reconsider. The vote to renew acted like a normal motion.

Under board rules, directors needed to vote to reconsider — a motion that could only be made by one of the directors who voted against the previous motion, Boland said.

Teachers laid off are: Molly Popish, Joshua Watters, Laurie Burdett, Kendra Hooper, Thomas Hirschler, Alena Schneider, Basil Bannister, Brianna Rice, Christina Gibson, Lindsey Fultz, Megan Ackourey, Megan Gilroy, Tara Cummings, Nicole Gillette, Ronald Simpson and Michael Tigue.

Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter