HAMMOND | Nearly 200 reduction in force letters were sent to Hammond teachers and support staff last week, and an additional 12 teachers retired, saving the district about $7.7 million.
Specifically, the district is cutting 33 elementary teachers for a saving of $1.7 million; 64 secondary teachers for a saving of $3.5 million; 80 support staff for a saving of $1.3 million; 22 long-term substitutes for a saving of $200,000; and 12 teachers are retiring for a saving of $1 million.
Hammond School Board President Deborah White said the district was looking at a deficit for the 2012-13 school year as a result of declining enrollment due to charter schools and the state's voucher program, as well as the school funding formula.
The school district is legally required to send out the RIF notice, but it does not mean the teacher will definitely be laid off. The letters are a formality to put teachers on notice they may be laid off. Depending on the student population in the fall, a teacher could be recalled.
White said administrators would be reviewing the numbers over the summer.
"We took a very hard look at minimizing the number of RIFs as much as possible," she said. Unfortunately, White said she knows that some of the newest teachers will be eliminated as a result of the layoffs.
Several people spoke during the Hammond School Board meeting, begging the board to reinstate the support staff, particularly in school libraries and the special education program.
Kelly Hladek, the Morton High School media specialist, said she was speaking on behalf of all librarians when she said media specialists are "greatly concerned" about their ability to provide services to students and teachers without the paraprofessionals.
"We need them to help maintain the integrity of our library. There are times we are called away for technology issues and we can't leave the library unsupervised," she said.
Parent John Thomas said he was especially concerned that some of the one-to-one classroom aides for students in special education were being cut.
"I think it's going to present a problem to the special education students. There seems to be a lot of politics involved," he said.