District 622 board approves 55 probationary teacher layoffs

It was a busy night filled with prolonged debate and tough decisions for North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Board members Tuesday, April 28.

Board members held two separate meetings that evening, with one dedicated to outlining next steps in the superintendent search process, and the other a regular board meeting that included laying off 55 probationary teachers in the district.

Board member Steve Hunt asked human resource director Keith Gray what the legal definition of a probationary teacher was.

Gray explained that Minnesota statute defines a probationary teacher as one who has not established a continuing contract (tenured) status. Minnesota state law defines a teacher’s probationary period in two ways: The first three consecutive years of a teacher’s first teaching experience in a single district, and the first year in each district in which the teacher is thereafter employed.

Gray told the board the vast majority of the layoffs were attributable to the over $8 million in budget cuts ratified at the Jan. 27 board meeting as part of District 622’s budget reduction plan. The board was forced to make steep cuts at that meeting after being presented with a district audit that showed projected expenditures exceeding revenues by a little over $8 million.

The 2013-2014 audit identified salaries as being over budget by $4 million. The board approved the roughly $8 million in cuts from the district’s general fund budget for the 2015-2016 school year Feb 17, which included the elimination of about 90 district staff positions.

Board chair Theresa Auge thanked the staff members for their service to the district and apologized on behalf of the board for the circumstances that led to the layoffs. She said it was a “very solemn moment” for the board.

The vote to layoff the probationary teachers was unanimous.

-- Joshua Nielsen

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