CUYAHOGA FALLS -- City schools teachers wanted to be notified as soon as possible if they were going to be affected by the district's reduction in force, the teachers' union president told the Board of Education on May 17.
Melody Carlisle, president of the Cuyahoga Falls Education Association, said union members met on April 27 to talk about the RIF timeline and notification process. Various ways of notifying staff members were discussed, she said.
"It was overwhelmingly determined by the membership that the notification should be given as soon as possible," Carlisle said. "My members felt that there was never a 'best' way to tell someone they do not have a job." She said teachers wanted to be told at the earliest possible time to "minimize anxiety" and "be able to look for other employment."
Carlisle said she let teachers know which day and time during the week of May 15 district and union officials would be in their buildings to notify those on the list. She said she requested substitute teachers be on hand to relieve any teachers wishing to leave for the rest of the day. Whenever possible, she said, teachers were notified before starting class, at the end of a period or during their planning time.
"At no time were teachers given a notice of RIF or reassignment in front of students, in the middle of the classroom, or the hallway," Carlisle said. "At no time were students left unattended because their teacher was off getting a notice of reduction." However, she added, she believed what was going on was not lost on students.
"I am sure the students picked up on what was happening," she said. "We have prepared them to be innovative, intelligent problem solvers. I would expect them to figure out what was happening and to be upset by it. However, they were not exposed to any situation where they saw a teacher being RIF'd."
The worst-case scenario was some students had to finish the day without their regular teacher, Carlisle said, adding she was impressed by the number of teachers who said, "No, my kids need me," when asked if they wanted to leave. "This makes me proud to be a Black Tiger," she said.
School board member Dave Martin said he was "taken aback" by the reports he read on social media on how RIFs were being handled. Facebooks posts stated students saw their teachers crying after receiving word of being reduced-in-force.
"As a board member, I wasn't involved in that nor informed on any of that," he said. "I understand there may have been hours and hours of time [spent in prior discussions], I still think … [notifying teachers on] early-release Wednesday may have been a better way."
Martin said district officials could have met with teachers and CFEA officials in their union hall to notify them of the teachers affected by the reduction in force. "It might have been a better way to handle that," he said.
Following the meeting, Dr. Todd Nichols, the district's superintendent, said the names of teachers affected by the RIF are not being released at this time because "the list is changing." Nichols said some of the teachers given RIF notices have already been called back or reassigned due to attrition.
Ellen McClure, the district's human resources director, said the names of affected educators will continue to change throughout the summer.