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Rochester To Lay Off 160 To Close Budget Deficit

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The Rochester, N.Y., school board last week voted to lay off 160 employees--including all of the district's elementary-school librarians--to help close a $10-million budget deficit.

The decision came after several weeks of negotiations with the Rochester Teachers Association, which urged the board to cut administrative positions. The board, meanwhile, sought to convince the union to accept a three-day furlough. (See Education Week, Jan. 22, 1992.)

The talks broke down over the union's demand that the district agree not to lay off teachers until June 1993.

Adam Urbanski, president of the R.T.A., argued that making concessions without such a guarantee would be foolhardy. The district already is projecting a budget deficit of at least $8 million for the next school year and district officials have indicated they may have to ask for contract concessions again, he said.

"The way I figure it,'' he said, "they were asking us to agree now to subsidize the district from now on.''

Catherine Spoto, president of the board, said the R.T.A.'s demands--including proposals to cut specific percentages of administrators--were "simply untenable.''

"It grieves me deeply that it seems that we have degenerated into an environment of finger-pointing and blame-laying, rather than looking at how we can all pull together to make sure children's needs are met,'' she said.

One of the most emotional of the board's decisions involved laying off guidance counselors, particularly in the city's middle schools. Ms. Spoto noted that the district has worked hard to improve its guidance program and to hire more minority guidance counselors.

The cuts provoked outbursts from students both at the board's meeting and the following day, when some gathered to protest the layoffs at the district's headquarters.

Last week's layoffs, in addition to cuts of about 30 positions in January, will not close the budget gap, however. The district will make up the remaining $4 million by using money from its insurance pool, changing its contribution to the state teacher-retirement fund, and other measures.

Since January, according to Augustin Melendez, the district's supervising director of human resources, the district has eliminated about 30 administrative positions. Although most of those administrators have been reassigned to teaching positions, some were given short-term positions funded with state or federal money and some were laid off.--A.B.

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