76 teachers get pink slips - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Crystal Oko

76 teachers get pink slips

ROCHESTER, MN (KTTC-DT) -- The $9 million cut out of the Rochester Public School District's budget is now becoming a reality.

The school district is confirming that 76 teachers, and 12 clerical employees have received their pink slips.

Teachers we've heard from say they were surprised to have received their letter of un requested leave, surprised they were part of those numbers, and took the news pretty hard.

Kit Hawkins, the president of the Rochester Education Association said the number the district gave her in March was 30. Today, the district is confirming that 76 teachers received a letter saying they're out.

A difficult task, the Rochester School Board shaved $9.3 million dollars from the budget a few months ago.

Now, the reality of those cuts is setting in for the Rochester School District, as it hands out letters of so-called "un requested leaves of absence" to 88 employees.

76 of those are teachers. 31 at the secondary level, 45 elementary school teachers, and 12 clerical staff.

"I'm very sad right now. I'm hoping that the community understands that the budget reductions that we made a few months ago are now a reality for us as employees. We are losing vital, talented experts in their fields," said Kit Hawkins, president of the Rochester Education Association.

Included in the changes are increases in class sizes, which result in fewer teachers.

"They're never easy. Whenever you're looking at budget and you're talking about what's best for students, raising class sizes is never where we want to be as a district," said Allen.

Kit Hawkins, president of the Rochester Education Association, says she's been working to support teachers since the process began on Wednesday.

"This is a period of grief for us because we are losing our colleagues and we are losing the experts that support our students. This will have a direct impact on the students in Rochester K-12," said Hawkins.

Rochester is only one of many school districts facing cuts. School districts all over Minnesota are weighing their options and making terrible choices.

Hawkins says the solution to budget issues begins at the state level at the Capitol.

"It's very difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel when our state legislator is talking about cutting across the budget including health care and education," said Hawkins.

Sheri Allen, executive director of elementary and secondary education, says these numbers are not solid and will continue to fluctuate as some teachers choose to retire, and some are re-hired.

It even changed from morning to afternoon today-when it went from 78 teachers getting their letters, suddenly, we were told, the number was 76.

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