School committee announces possible layoffs amid budget crisis



The first paragraph of the statement the Brookline School Committee released to the public today.

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) announced this afternoon in a public statement that the projected town budget gap for 2021 is $12.8 million. Along with this, they were notified at a public Town-School partnership meeting that the Brookline Public Schools should plan to reduce their budget for 2021 by $6.3 million.

In their statement BSC said that no whole departments have been cut yet. However, multiple sources within the school community have told the Sagamore that their entire departments will be issued reduction-in-force notices (RIFs) by 5 p.m.

According to social studies teacher Kathryn Leslie, those who are given RIFs will no longer be employed by the Brookline Public Schools come September. However, they may be rehired any time between the release of the RIF and the beginning of the school year in September.

Those told to expect the RIF include all non-tenured teachers, all paraprofessionals, all librarians, all teachers in Career and Technical Education (CTE), performing arts and Health and Fitness. Furthermore, staff of the Brookline Early Education Program (BEEP) will all be given notices. World Language teachers in years K-5 are also at risk of termination.

Individual teachers were notified in advance by curriculum coordinators.

The BSC message (linked above) stated in a bulleted list that “the budgeting process is ongoing and no programs have been cut/BEEP has not been eliminated/Music, arts, library, health, and world language have not been eliminated/The PSB will continue to meet its obligations to our students with special education needs and our English language learners.”

In contradiction to the BSC letter, WBUR’s article about program cuts quotes Interim Superintendent Ben Lummis as saying that “the only program targeted comprehensively by the proposed cuts is {BEEP}.”

In an open meeting this morning with the School Committee’s Finance Subcommittee, Lummis noted that although approximately 300 teachers will be issued RIFs, he does not expect to cut all of those positions permanently.

“There is no universe where we don’t bring back the vast majority of those people,” Lummis said.

Even so, those issued RIFs are permitted to search for other employment while out of work.

The move to send out RIFs first instead of termination notices fulfills the contractual agreement between the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) and the BSC, which states that all layoffs must be given prior to May 30th.

Rumors about personnel changes began last night when the curriculum coordinators notified teachers about the imminent RIFs. Since then, students, parents and the community have rallied in support of teachers who have received the slips.

“I know that there have been a lot of community conversations, petitions and parent groups getting together,” visual arts teacher Elizabeth Brennan said. “I’ve received really, really wonderful emails from my colleagues who have not lost their jobs, and they’ve been offering their love and support. I think everyone is willing to fight for this. We have to stand in solidarity with each other, and I appreciate that.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.