AUSTIN EDITION Austin School District lays off six people

By Roxana Orellana

The Austin School District, looking to pare its budget, laid off six paraprofessionals and reduced the schedules of two administrative support positions on Monday.

The reductions will save the district around $50,000, according to Human Resource Director Christina Picha.

But two board members didn't approve of the way the layoffs were handled. Board member Susan Fell Johnson said that getting the personnel agenda right before the meeting did not give the board enough time to think about and make a decision.


"It would have been great to get this in advance, so we can think about it," Fell Johnson said. "I don't feel comfortable making a decision about it."

Board member Bruce Loveland agreed.

The layoffs were recommended by the district's personnel and finance committee. Picha said the people on the list would be notified today, but they were already aware that their positions were in jeopardy.

The list includes one paraprofessional from Austin High School and the Bank Program, two from Banfield Elementary and the Bank Program, one from Woodson Community School and one from Ellis Middle School. Paraprofessionals work six to six-and-a-half hours per day.

If funding becomes available, those paraprofessionals could be called back, starting with those with the most seniority, Picha said.

The board also reduced two secretarial positions from 12- to 11-month jobs.

In addition, two certified staff members were granted unpaid, one-year leaves of absence from Banfield Elementary and Ellis Middle schools.

In other business


The board approved the drug resistance program ALERT to compensate for last year's elimination of the DARE program.

Ellis Middle School Principal Candace Raskin said the district's K-12 counselors and social workers had been working to find a curriculum that would suit Austin's students.

Sixth-graders will get the new program for five weeks. Seventh-graders will have it for four weeks. And eighth-graders and 10th-graders will have "booster sessions" for one week each.

One drawback of the new ALERT program is that sixth- graders will no longer get a four-and-a-half-week sewing unit, Raskin said. Other family consumer and healthy living courses will be realigned.

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