Amprey cutting 278 school jobs

June 22, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

Beginning his promised shake-up of Baltimore schools, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has sent letters to 278 employees, including 49 teachers, informing them that their positions will soon be eliminated.

The letters began arriving in employees' mailboxes yesterday, four weeks after Dr. Amprey warned all 10,000 school system employees of a "considerable number" of job cuts or reassignments.

"We know for some of those getting notices this is disaster," Dr. Amprey said. "We're trying to do this in the most humanistic way possible."

Dr. Amprey said some of the employees targeted could move into other jobs before next school year, as "bumping rights," seniority and other provisions of union contracts play out. He stressed that the overall number of teachers, estimated at 6,800, would not be reduced but that the reorganization would eliminate some positions in subjects where surpluses exist, such as auto shop, masonry and carpentry.

Teachers could be retrained for other slots or grade levels should vacancies occur, and central office staffers, including many certified teachers, could be moved to schools, he said.

The superintendent's letters, dated Friday, inform teachers that they will be laid off July 8 and placed on a recall list if not reassigned before school starts in September. Those placed on recall lists would be considered for vacancies based on seniority. Central office staff are to be removed from their jobs by July 19.

In addition to going to 49 teachers, layoff notices went to 158 paraprofessionals, most of whom assist teachers in schools, and about 70 headquarters staff members.

The letters drew criticism from unions representing targeted employees. The 8,500-member Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) expressed surprise that more than two-thirds of those targeted were positions in schools, despite Dr. Amprey's repeated assurances that the reorganization would affect primarily headquarters staff.

"It's alarming that the promises were made after the initial 10,000 letters, and now he's actually reneging on them," said Linda Prudente, a BTU spokeswoman.

"That's something we have to discuss with Dr. Amprey: why the school house was hit so hard. Only a third came from North Avenue [headquarters], and that seems to fly in the face of what he's been pushing: more to the school house, less to central administration."

The BTU has requested a meeting this week with Dr. Amprey.

Dr. Amprey said his restructuring is meant to "right-size the organization" and match the right staffers with the right jobs. While the overall number of teachers won't be reduced, pTC headquarters will, as the jobs eliminated there will not be filled, the superintendent said.

Dr. Amprey acknowledged that a budget crunch also played a part in his decision, but he could not say how much will be saved. Most of the paraprofessionals were considered "surplus" -- employees whose jobs were not budgeted but were paid for by money earmarked for other purposes.

School officials said the union had been told more than a year ago that the jobs would be eliminated. About 80 paraprofessionals were declared "surplus" when for-profit Education Alternatives Inc. took over nine schools and replaced them with lower-paid interns in 1992.

Dr. Amprey said he expects more reassignments as part of a three-year effort to shift more authority, money and staff from headquarters to individual schools.

But he said he doubts the reorganization would result in further layoffs or elimination of positions.

The 7,500-member City Union of Baltimore, which represents some clerical workers who received layoff notices, said it is taking its case against the moves to Mayor Kurt L.Schmoke today. That union's president, Cheryl Glenn, questioned whether the city followed contract provisions that those with the least seniority be laid off first and said existing vacancies should have been filled before resorting to layoffs.

Dr. Amprey's May 26 letter to all school system employees drew a torrent of criticism -- and calls for his resignation from the BTU.

The letter said the changes would affect all union bargaining units -- groups that represent teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, secretaries and maintenance workers, among others.

In April, Dr. Amprey announced a "major, major shake-up" that he said could result in hundreds of headquarters employees' being demoted or moved to other jobs as the school system shifts more authority, money and staff members from headquarters to individual schools.

The impending moves mark the first systemwide job cuts during Dr. Amprey's tenure as chief of the 113,000-student district.

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