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School District rehires laid-off teachers

The last of 419 laid-off teachers have been rehired by the same district that let them go.

They will be returning just in time for the first day of school on Aug. 27, Clark County School District officials confirmed Friday.

Their former jobs – and 600 other teaching positions – no longer exist, which means class-size increases and program cuts remain in effect. Instead, those laid off last school year will be filling jobs vacated by teachers who have retired or resigned.

“We’re glad to have everybody back, but we’re still down 1,000 positions,” School Board member Carolyn Edwards said. “We would like to get some of the positions back, not just people.”

To understand what happened, it’s best to start at the beginning.

On May 2, an arbitrator sided with the Clark County Education Association, which represents teachers, and forced the cash-strapped district to continue paying raises to teachers. To help cover the $64 million cost, Superintendent Dwight Jones announced a month later that about 400 teachers had been sent pink slips and wouldn’t be returning in 2012-13.

At the time, the district also expected about 600 teachers to retire or leave the district. The district decided not to replace them, eliminating their positions to help cover the cost of the raises.

But more teacher resignations rolled in than expected, Chief Human Resources Officer Staci Vesneske said. In all, 1,215 teachers voluntarily left this summer, about twice as many as expected.

The 419 laid-off teachers simply replaced some of the departing teachers. That doesn’t change the fact that there will be 1,000 fewer district teachers than last year.

The effect of June’s layoffs remains, Edwards emphasized.

“This isn’t a change,” she said.

The fifth-largest district in the country still has 17,000 teachers instead of the 18,000 of last year.

Clark County averaged 32 students per class last year, the highest student/teacher ratio in the country.

‘NOTHING HAS CHANGED’

This school year, the average class size will increase to 35 students at high schools, middle schools and grades four and five, as Superintendent Jones originally said during the layoffs announcement in June.

“Nothing has changed, as far as I’m concerned,” Edwards said.

Ruben Murillo, president of the teachers union, begged to differ.

“This validates our point that the district had the resources to recall all laid-off teachers,” he said. “In fact, this affirms our position that no teacher should have been laid off to begin with.”

But the district couldn’t have foreseen so many resignations and still doesn’t have the resources to restore the positions, just replace leaving teachers, Clark County School Board President Linda Young said.

“Reasonable people” would understand that, but some “see things the way they want,” Young said.

“We’re still hopeful that reasonable minds will prevail,” she said, referencing negotiations between the district and teachers union over working terms of the coming school year.

Murillo said the “root of the problem” isn’t at the district level but lies with the state Legislature’s “lack of adequate funding for public education.”

The reason behind so many teacher resignations is unclear, Vesneske said when asked whether the district’s unstable employment environment increased the number of those who left.

Retirements accounted for 452 of the 1,215 departing teachers.

Another 328 teachers who left gave no reason, 192 moved, 73 noted personal or family reasons, 31 left the profession, seven said they were dissatisfied with the district, and 132 teachers gave other reasons.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

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