LORAIN — Lorain Schools could lose as many as 30 teachers next year because of changes made to federal funding, according to the leader of the teachers union.
Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering said the union is concerned about District CEO David Hardy hiring 24 to 26 additional building administrators for next year and using federal Title I funds to do so, ultimately eliminating teacher positions.
“He’s shifting the money, and it’s probably going to mean 30 fewer teachers who work with some of the students in the district who need the help the most,” Pickering said. “I have a union of about 500 teachers, and it’ll take us down to around 470 or 475.”
Pickering said the funds come from the federal government and are based on the income level of the school district to help improve math and reading scores. He said it allows some students to work with a teacher one-on-one or in smaller groups.
“It’s very beneficial to those kids, and instead those funds are being given to the principals,” he said. “We understand if the funding amount goes down because that’s how the federal government works — but if it’s going to administrators?”
District Treasurer and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Josh Hill said the amount of Title I funding the schools have received in recent years has gone down, dropping from slightly over $6 million in 2014 to slightly over $4 million in 2018.
Hardy has said next year the traditional model of building principals will be eliminated and instead the buildings will be headed by a turnaround principal, a dean of academics and a dean of student and family engagement.
Hardy was asked to comment on Pickering’s concerns, but he said he would not be available to discuss them until next Thursday.
“We’re checking into it with our union attorney because it could be something allowable under the Every Child Succeeds Act, but under (the predecessor act) No Child Left Behind it’s not something that could have been done,” Pickering said. “It had to go to teachers working directly with students.”
Pickering said each of the district’s schools usually has two Title I teachers and they’re integral at the elementary level because “it’s so important for the younger students to get a jump start on working on reading and math.”
Pickering said he was concerned about the change in positions and funding and brought it up at Hardy’s most recent town hall April 12.
“He said it’s basically a terminology change, but it’s not,” Pickering said.
At the town hall event, Hardy responded to Pickering, saying the elimination of as many as 34 teachers was not accurate and instead it would be the “elimination of potential titles of teachers.”
“Those teachers have tenure and they have rights to go back to the classroom and do their jobs,” Hardy said April 12. “The idea that we’re eliminating people is not accurate. The idea that we’re eliminating titles to create changes in the school staffing is accurate. Will that result in some teachers leaving? Absolutely. But I don’t think the number is that high. It’s eliminating the positions, not the people.”
At the event, Hardy said that the additional staff was being brought to provide support for things that members of the community have been asking for, including help with bullying and classroom management.
When asked by an audience member how teachers would work with the students who need additional help without the support of Title I teachers, Hardy repeatedly answered, “Taking away the title, not the people.”
A teacher in the district who attended a meeting Wednesday night about the district’s federal funding programming said the district is planning to have an intervention block — meaning students are shuffled between teachers and those needing Title I services will all be in the same class for a period of the day.
“The problem is you still have a full class size then,” she said. “You still have kids not getting individual attention.”
The teacher would not allow her comments to be used if her name was used publicly.
“I’ve seen what (Hardy’s) done to the principals, and I’m afraid for my job,” the teacher said.
School board President Tony Dimacchia said the entire situation is “so wrong on so many levels” and Hardy “hasn’t spent a dollar on classrooms” but is taking away from some of the district’s students who need help the most.
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