GROTON — The recent budget vote has the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District bracing for up to 30 layoffs, and the School Committee expects to move forward with staffing reductions in June.
The assessment was given by School Committee chairman James Frey, who said the budget must be balanced when the new fiscal year begins on July 1. The district is currently facing a shortfall of $1.23 million, after Groton and Dunstable voters rejected override requests to support the schools in late May.
Frey said the school board is still looking for ways to minimize the reductions, adding they want to hear recommendations from newly-hired Superintendent Joseph Mastrocola on the current layoff plan, which includes reduction of 13.3 teachers, six paraprofessionals and two administrators.
“Right now we’re going to make the best of what we can,” said Frey. “We’re not done trying to reduce the number of positions being laid off, but we have a plan and we’re not delaying with the implementation of that.”
Mastrocola’s first day with the district was May 24, and a call seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Frey said the layoffs will be discussed at the next school board meeting, on Wednesday, June 2. He expected to hear updates on the school’s revenue and expense projections, but no major adjustments. He also said it’s “highly unlikely” the schools will put together another override — even a smaller one — to avoid the layoffs, given that the previous request was rejected by both towns. However, Frey said it’s likely the School Committee will evaluate the potential for an “off-cycle” override in November, which could potentially restore some positions. In any event, Frey said they plan to begin next year’s budget process early, and make it collaborative as possible.
“Believe me, we are going to spend a lot of time talking to the town boards, the unions, and the constituents,” he said. “We’re going to start the process immediately out of the gates this year.”
From a procedural standpoint, Frey said layoff notifications for were issued prior to the override vote as a precaution. However, neither Frey nor teachers union president Carolyn Scafidi would name any of the people receiving notices, saying they preferred to hear from the new superintendent first.
“With the new superintendent on board, we just have to wait and see,” said Scafidi.
Layoffs from the teachers union would be done on the basis of seniority, but Scafidi said there’s a lot of moving pieces and it’s too early to make predictions.
In a related matter, Scafidi confirmed that the deadline for teachers to file retirement paperwork has passed, saying it looks like one teacher will be able to avoid getting laid off by transferring to the newly vacated elementary school position in Dunstable.
While Scafidi said it’s too early to more detailed prediction how the failed override will impact district staff, she said it was devastating for teachers, who are very concerned about how it will impact the students.
Even so, Scafidi said the union is accepting the will of the voters on the override question.
“The people of Groton and Dunstable have spoken and I think we need to move forward, but we need to see what the impact of that will be,” she said. “Nothing is set in stone at this point.”