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Pleasant Vly. to lay off 52 staffers; list includes dean of students, teachers, support workers

The Pleasant Valley School Board approved the layoffs of 52 employees at its meeting on Thursday night - 18 professional and 34 support staff.

Of the 18 professional employees, one is the dean of students, six are teachers at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, two secondary math teachers, two learning support teachers and seven secondary teachers listed as temporary employees.

The 34 support staff include 20 paraprofessionals, 11 monitors, two full-time secretaries and one part-time secretary.

The foundation for the layoffs was set in April with resolutions spelling out the reasons for the layoffs. One of those reasons is the decrease in enrollment.

Since the 2012-2013 school year, enrollment has dropped nearly 30% from 5,436 students to 3,792 students, while the number of full-time employees has dropped 17% from 456 employees to 382.

Another reason for the layoffs is finances.

According to the resolution, the school district was looking at a budget with expenditures of $108.9 million. The layoffs would bring the expenditures down to $107 million. But the district’s preliminary budget was estimated to bring in $103 million in revenue, which leaves a deficit.

The district’s business office had alerted the school board in February to a possible $5.8 million deficit and a possible tax increase of 4.7%. In addition to raising taxes, the school district was facing the possibility of dipping into the general fund to balance the budget.

Business Manager Michael Simonetta said at that Feb. 10 meeting, “Sorry for the gloom and doom, but I think we need to keep updated and understand where we’re at and the challenges ahead.”

By late February, the district had announced retirement incentives for both professional and support staff employees in order to reduce the number of people who would have to be let go later in the year. As a result, 28 teaching professionals took the retirement incentive and 22 support staff.

Since March, more than 100 employees, both professional and support staff, are leaving the Pleasant Valley School District. These employees include those choosing to retire, those choosing to resign, and those chosen by the district to be furloughed. Most are full-time employees, but some are part-time, temporary and a couple are substitutes who resigned.

Members of the public asked the school board to reconsider the layoffs. Of them was Drew Dymond, the president of the Pleasant Valley Education Association.

“I keep hearing that we have too many teachers. We keep hearing how students will have the same opportunities they’ve always had. I was here last board meeting when everyone was raving about the PVI band concert. I noticed no one mentioned why the band director had taken a job at another district. She left Pleasant Valley because she was worried she would be nonrenewed, and now we know she was right to leave. I hope we don’t look back at that moment and realize that was the start of missed opportunities for our students.”

Dymond added, “I’m not sure how many teachers are willing to work somewhere else and come back to coach or direct a band here. We have class advisers, coaches of multiple sports on this list. We have expecting mothers and fathers-to-be on this list. We have parents of PV graduates and longtime community members on this list.

“Leadership should always be looking around corners and making decisions for tomorrow, but all we hear is that we have to do this now because this is where we are currently. We have actually heard administrators arguing for higher class sizes with no real plan to deal with the learning loss that has occurred over the past few years. I fear where we will be in the future. Can we honestly say this is what is best for students?”