School unions announce 12 staff cuts

BY LUKE VOELZ | APRIL 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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Secondary schools in the Iowa City School District will cut the equivalent of 12 full-time positions, a union official said on April 15. School officials said Sunday this could result in larger class sizes and less-efficient operations.

Tom Yates, the president of the Iowa City Education Association, said the cuts will include four positions at West High and four positions at City High. Such cuts are typically announced earlier in the year, he said, so this makes planning for the upcoming year especially difficult.

"It's a combination of trying to decide how the next school year is going to look on one hand and just absolutely laying off teachers and letting them know," said the City High English teacher. "It's all falling in a fairly narrow span of time, and it's stressful."

Yates also emphasized that the cuts could affect administrative faculty, part-time teachers, and secretaries. These positions often count as less than one "full-time position" under the full-time-equivalency setup, meaning two part-time teachers could count as a single position.

However, he said, budget issues resolved during the summer may allow some teachers to return.

"Iowa City really has a pretty good track record with hiring back teachers and staff who have been laid off, and that goes in their favor," he said.

The district has until April 30 to notify teachers of further layoffs.

West High Principal Jerry Arganbright said his school is struggling to balance the staff cuts with a rapidly growing student population. There are 1,860 students enrolled at West High, an increase of 70 over last year, and administrative faculty are predicting the number to rise above 1,900 in the next academic year.

"We're going to have a building of more than 1,900 kids, and we're staffing it as if we had 1,700," he said. "That's stress that teachers feel, and I think people have to understand it's going to affect the education program."

The effect could come in the form of huge increases to class sizes. Arganbright said West High may have to consolidate AP calculus sections into a single class with 42 students.

The principal said he's eyeing cutting secretaries and administrative staff where possible, though West High has always been low-staffed.

"I don't think [West High] has ever been opulent with our staffing," he said.

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