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Originally published Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Seattle school district to lay off teachers

Seattle Public Schools notified some of its teachers Tuesday that they won't have jobs next year. District officials won't release the total number of layoffs until Wednesday, but confirmed most of the affected employees were notified Tuesday.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle Public Schools is the latest school district to announce it will lay off teachers next year.

The district earlier said it hoped enough teachers would retire or leave to make teachers layoffs unnecessary. But on Tuesday, principals started calling some teachers into the principals' offices to let them know they won't have a job next fall.

District officials won't release the total number of layoffs until today but confirmed they were in the process of notifying affected employees.

The president of the Seattle teachers' union, however, said she's been told that about 170 teachers and other certificated staff members will lose their jobs.

In addition to those laid off this week, the district earlier told another 33 teachers — those on what's called "provisional" contracts who are mostly in their first two years of teaching — that they'll be out of work in September.

Under state law, school districts across Washington have until Friday to send layoff notices to teachers, librarians, counselors and other certificated staff members. Districts cannot lay off certificated employees after that date.

In Seattle, the school district hopes to rehire many of the discharged employees by September, said district spokeswoman Patti Spencer. But she said officials must be conservative because of the May 15 deadline.

How many teachers end up without jobs "is very dependent on how many more retirements and resignations we receive," she said.

Hit hard this week was West Seattle High School, where half the teachers in the language-arts department were laid off.

"It just feels like they are decimating our department," said Rebecka McKinney, who thought she'd be safe because three of her language-arts colleagues have less seniority than she does.

McKinney, in her fourth year of teaching, says she doesn't know what she's going to do.

"This is the job I want," she said. "I really want to teach here. I do the newspaper and I do the senior project. I don't want to go and apply for a bunch of random jobs which there aren't any of anyway."


Other districts

Other school districts also have announced layoffs and other reductions to make up for cuts in state education funding approved by state lawmakers.

Earlier this week, Bellevue announced it will make $5 million in cuts by reducing its teaching staff by the equivalent of 60 full-time certificated-instructional staff, two administrative jobs and eight classified jobs.

Officials said the cutbacks will cause class sizes to increase by about 1.6 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and 1.4 students in middle and high school.

Elsewhere on the Eastside, the Lake Washington and Northshore districts have avoided teacher layoffs through cutbacks such as administrative reductions and fee increases.

The Issaquah School District has sent layoff notices to 158 teachers, although it hopes to bring back 60 or 70 of the positions once its funding becomes more clear. The Snoqualmie Valley School District plans to reduce its teaching staff by the equivalent of 18.5 positions.

Cost-saving measures

In Seattle, the School Board already has voted to close five schools for an estimated savings of $3.6 million, and streamline bus service to save an additional $2 million. Other cuts under consideration include $4 million in central office staff.

April McKenna, a first-year teacher at Ballard High, received her layoff notice in January. She says she may leave teaching for a while, since she's worked so hard this year to establish herself and doesn't want to start all over somewhere else.

"I love teaching," she said. "It's really sad to think I won't be able to do what I love ... ."

The last time that Seattle Public Schools laid off a significant number of teachers was in 2003, when the district dismissed 178 employees. By the time school started, however, the district was able to offer jobs to all but three of those people.

But given the state of the economy, this year likely will be different.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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