Will Current Teachers Lose Jobs Due to Restructuring?

April 11, 2014
by Barbara O’Brien

One of the questions asked of Windham School District administrators during the April 1 school board meeting was whether or not any current teachers employed by the district would lose their jobs as the result of the planned restructuring of the position of “dean” at Windham High School.

Since Windham High School opened its doors in 2009, department heads at the school have been titled “deans” and, as such, have been overseeing their individual departments.  That is in the process of changing, however, as the result of recommendations being made by district administrators and the recent passage of the 2014-2015 operating budget.  This coming year, some of the former dean positions will become “directors.”  SAU 95 administrators made it clear that there was no guarantee that the people who held the dean jobs would apply for or be offered the position of director.  Director positions will be more far-reaching and impact the lower grades, as well, in anticipation of ensuring a more vertical alignment between the grades (kindergarten through 12th or sixth through 12th, depending on the subject matter).

Although no details were discussed in public during the meeting, there were some comments made regarding RIF (Reduction in Force) letters having gone out to some staff members.  Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said that this in line with state statutes regarding the renewal of employees’ contracts.  It was not disclosed which teachers received these RIF letters, as access to that information is restricted.

One resident asked the school board to reconsider the process for restructuring the former dean positions.  She said she was concerned about “unintended consequences,” referring to the potential loss of valuable teachers.  “I was not aware staff would be let go,” this resident commented, adding that she would be devastated to lose teachers “who have had a powerful and positive impact on students.”

School Board Vice-chairman Dennis Senibaldi said he never heard of any possible loss of teachers during the budget planning process.  Senibaldi was opposed to the change in restructuring throughout pre-election discussions on the subject, stating concern about the ultimate cost to taxpayers.  Newly elected board member Ken Eyring echoed Senibaldi’s comments about not realizing anyone would lose their employment because of the switch.  “The community should have known about this up front,” Eyring said.  Eyring also said he felt that the school board should be part of the process leading to any new director positions.

Feneberg said he fully expected the deans to apply for the director positions, but offered no information on whether any had done so at this point.  “We already have some very qualified individuals,” Feneberg said.  The move from dean to director would not be a promotion, just a different role, Feneberg explained.

As for any changes in staff for the upcoming school year, a school district the size of Windham always has some turnover in staff, Feneberg stated.  “We are charged with finding the very best people” to fill any vacant positions, he added.  As for those previously holding dean positions, it was the intention that they would become teachers again, if not selected as a director or not wanting to be a director.

As for the current status of the restructuring, “the process has only just begun,” Feneberg commented.  “I can’t predict the final situation.”  “A loss of staff may not happen,” Feneberg continued, adding that the process will continue to unfold over the next several weeks.