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Westport Fails to Renew Contracts for 100 Teachers

WESTPORT, Conn. – At least 115 Westport educators are on notice that they may not have jobs next year. On Monday night, the Board of Education unanimously approved a recommendation to not renew contracts for all nontenured teachers, including permanent and long-term substitutes.

This procedural action, in accordance with state law, comes in the face of budget uncertainty, Director of Human Resources Marge Cion told the board before the vote.

“This is done in order to avoid any budget constraints pending further cuts,” Cion said. “We sent the [notification] letters out last week, and we’ve heard nothing in response.”

The school board last month approved a $100.2 million budget for the 2012-13 school year. However, there is no guarantee the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting — the town’s legislative body — won’t cut the spending plan before final approval comes in May.

Anticipating spending cuts not only allows the school board to plan for what-ifs, it also gives the employees time to come up with their own plans, Board of Education Chairman Don O’Day said after the meeting. The board, he said, is required to notify these employees that their jobs may not be available next year.

On top of budget uncertainty, O’Day said school enrollment is a factor. Based on early projections, enrollment in the elementary schools will be down by 82 students next year. This means fewer teachers, possibly as many as seven less, will be needed at the elementary level, he said.

Although the contracts will not be renewed, O’Day said layoffs are not guaranteed.

“When we know the real enrollment numbers and what the final budget will be, we can decide what staff levels are appropriate, and offer people their positions back,” he said. “Whether we can bring back everyone remains to be seen.”

The Board of Finance will vote on the education board’s proposed budget March 29. The final budget will be determined by the RTM in May.

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