Furloughs selected over layoffs at Gateway

HUNTINGTON – After an executive session during last night’s meeting of the Gateway Regional School District’s School Committee, a memorandum of understanding proposed by the Gateway Teachers Association was accepted by the committee and a crisis averted.
The GTA proposed a one day furlough for March 9 in order to save the jobs of seven district teachers, who School Superintendent Dr. David Hopson said last month would have to be laid off on January 23 to make up the $241,000 the district would lose as a result of 9C budget cuts to regional transportation made by Gov. Deval L. Patrick last year totalling $18 million.
According to school committee Chair Michele Crane of Blandford, the memorandum comes with some caveats.
“If Governor Patrick’s 9C cuts stay in place, the district will not be open on March 9, which was a day the students were going to have conferences, so there weren’t going to be classes anyway,” said Crane. “In exchange for that day, the teachers will get an extra personal day for the next school year.”
“If, by some chance, the new Governor restores those 9C cuts before March 9, than the teachers will be paid as normal and we’ll have conferences,” she continued, in reference to Gov. Charlie Baker, who was sworn in earlier this month. “If they’re restored afterward, they’ll get paid for the day even though they didn’t work it.”
While Crane and Hopson have alluded in the past that the immediate restoration of those cuts is unlikely, the school committee also voted to join in on a lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) challenging the legality of Patrick’s 9C cuts, which they say were made without first cutting from state Chapter 70, which funds the Commonwealth’s schools, a violation of Commonwealth General Law.
The school committee voted unanimously last night to pay $500 to join in on the lawsuit, a move which Hopson said could be pay big dividends.
“You’re essentially looking to put $500 out and, potentially, get $241,000 back,” he said.
When asked by committee member Shirley Winer of Chester about the lawsuit’s prospects, Hopson responded that they look promising.
“If you look at the reasoning MARS got, it sounds pretty good,” he said, adding that the Baker Administration and lawmakers are examining the cuts closely. “They’re asking between $500 to $1,000, but the more schools they go in for $500, the better.”

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