Students Fight Teacher Layoffs In St. Joseph Co.

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Mich. (June 10, 2014) — Students at a school in St. Joseph County fought for their teachers prior to them being laid off Tuesday.

The school board at Mendon Middle and High School voted that three teachers wouldn’t be coming back to the classroom in the fall. It’s a decision that was made after the district noticed a decline in student enrollment.

Students at the school protested the layoffs last week. During the meeting, several other students and staff also spoke out in disagreement about the decision.

“Laying off teachers without making any other cost saving changes has created quite a community uproar, ” the president of the teacher’s union said. “The timing of which could not have been worse: a day and a half before exams.”

mendon protest

Students protest during sit-in Friday

While the superintendent agreed that the timing of the announcement came at a bad time he said they school didn’t have a choice. He said it’s the policy of the district that teachers be informed within 20 days of the end of the school year. He said the district hired a firm that did a study on where the school stands financially. Saying, that the results came back pointing to a downward spiral when it comes to losing money. Still, the union president said the study is only an assumption. She said a decision shouldn’t be reached until there’s proof that the school is in financial distress.

“We don’t know what the state funding is yet,” she said. “We have heard it’s going to be anywhere from an increase of 70 dollars per student.. Yet, we’re laying off teachers now. On a positive note, the teachers are going to switch insurance companies…it’s going to save the district $200,000 plus. We found this out an almost two weeks ago.  Yet, we laid off three teachers last week.  In the unions mind this should’ve changed the game plan.”

Tearful students also did what they could to try to change the minds of the school board. One of the teachers who’s being relieved of her duties is a special education teacher. Several students spoke out about the impact these teachers have on their lives.

“For a long time, all I did was fail left and right in school,”a student said. “I always worked twice as hard as the students next to me but always came up short. It was Mendon High Schools special education teachers that helped change my life forever.”

Other students pleaded with the board to take a closer look at the budget.

“They’re [teachers] willing to change their insurance plans for us…that means something to us here at Mendon,” a student said. “I just hope that you guys are willing to take several more looks if you have to [at the budget] to save our teachers.”

The decision to lay the teachers off was made unanimously.

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