Yearbook sponsor Lopez, Fine Arts Department Chair Gehl among 16 teachers facing RIFs

Yearbook sponsor Lopez, Fine Arts Department Chair Gehl among 16 teachers facing RIFs

English teacher Cherise Lopez (right) made Clarion headlines earlier this year with an innovative lesson plan involving the idea of “slow food” and RB’s foods lab.

Alleigh VandeMerkt, Editor-in-Chief

At the Tuesday, March 13th school board meeting, the board formally announced its RIFs (Reduction in Force) for the upcoming school year.  When a teacher is “riffed,” it means that the school has let them know that they will not have employment next year due to budgetary rather than performance reasons.  Seven part-time teachers were let go completely, and nine full-time teachers had their positions reduced to part-time positions.  The school board made these decisions after hearing recommendations developed by Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, Principal Pam Bylsma, and other administrators and department chairs.

The RBEA collective bargaining agreement spells out which teachers may be riffed and in what order.  Teachers must be let go in reverse order of seniority, with the least senior teachers being riffed first and non-tenured teachers being riffed before tenured teachers.

Part-time teachers who were riffed in full included Gary Johnson (Applied Arts), Julie O’bradovic (World Language), Laurie Ritchey (CAP), Dominic Senese (Student Services), Dallas Till (Wellness), Kevin Turk (Social Studies), and Sarah Weis (Science).

Turk, who has taught at RB for seven years, said, “To have to start over after that long stinks, but that’s the situation that the school district is in.  It is not in my control, or even my boss’s control.  The financial situation that the district is in is pretty bad.”  Turk indicated that he has put out job applications, but understands the competition in the market.  As of right now, he does not know where he will be working next year.

Full-time teachers who saw their positions reduced to part-time or eliminated include Kirstin Bacon (English), Kellie Dean (Science), Thomas Dignan (English), Nick Gehl (Fine Arts and Applied Arts), Cherise Lopez (English), Lindsay Mynaugh (Math), Tim Olson (Math), Valerie Ostrow (Wellness), and Jenna Passananti (World Language).

Seven of these teachers were offered part-time positions, though it is unclear at this time whether all will accept those positions.  Of the two remaining full-time teachers, Lopez, who also sponsors the school yearbook, and Dignan will not be returning to RB next year.

“I have had two positions offered at other high schools,” said Lopez. “Both offered the yearbook position.”

These layoffs come as RB continues to try to close its financial gap and balance its budget.  Though the previous school board’s budget proposals did not indicate pursuing a balanced budget, but instead focused on maintaining a 20% operating fund balance as the school sought increased revenue from a referendum, current Board President Matt Sinde has made it clear that the new board is not intending to discuss increasing revenue through referendum until after a new RBEA contract is negotiated when the current contract expires at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

At the same meeting, board member Tim Walsh made a motion asking the school board to accept an offer from the RBEA, apparently made several weeks ago, to discuss the current contract and possible renegotiations with the full school board.  After brief discussion, Board Vice President John Keen brought the motion to a vote.  It was defeated by a 5-2 vote.

Only Walsh and Hruska voted in favor of engaging in contract discussions between the full RBEA executive board and the full school board.

The story above has been corrected from its initial version to reflect the status of the full-time teachers listed more accurately. -D. Mancoff