By Kara Herlihy

Ten Harwood teachers were issued "reduction in force" (RIF) notification this month as a part of the school board's effort to "preserve flexibility" and stay within the voter-approved budget for 2010.

Harwood School Board chair Scott Mackey said the RIF notifications are something that "unfortunately we have to do sometimes for budget reasons."

NOT YET KNOWN

Since Harwood's contract with the teacher's union is currently unresolved and set to expire at the end of this school year, the board decided to send RIF notices in order to preserve flexibility since the contractual costs and benefits aren't yet known.

RIF notices were issued to the most junior member of each department with the exception of the math and science departments; Mackey said the exception was the result of an existing vacancy based on a retirement.

AVOID DEFICIT SPENDING

"We issued notices this month to have the flexibility to address contractual obligations so we can avoid deficit spending since there is uncertainty around the contract," Mackey said.

The issuance of RIF notices is solely based on seniority through the contract that the union and the school board operate under, according to Mackey.

The uncertainty of the board members combined with the school's fixed budget and lack of an agreement in place for next year in part caused the board to send RIF notices until contractual obligations are resolved.

A FINAL CONTRACT

Mackey said that the issuance of RIFs is somewhat of a technicality; the board cannot offer employment without a final contract-rather they offer what is a called a "letter of intent" that relays the board's desire to rehire teachers. Teachers who received RIF notices did not receive a letter of intent.

Letters of intent serve as placeholders of sorts. Mackey said, "If there was a contract in place, we'd be sending out binding contracts with terms, salary and health insurance."

Just because a teacher was issued a RIF notice doesn't mean they may not be hired, Mackey said.

CONTRACT IS SETTLED

"Once the contract is settled we'll look at where we stand budget-wise," he continued.

This doesn't happen every year, according to Mackey; it only happens when the contract hasn't been resolved by mid-April. The length of the current contract, set to expire in a matter of months, was two years.

Mackey said that the board is hopeful that the issue will be resolved soon.

"We're continuing to resolve the contract; we hope to have it resolved ideally before July 1."

The RIF notices went to the following teachers on April 8:

Rodger Coupe - technology education; Laura Huss-Steils - family and consumer science; Matthew Henchen - social studies; Sam Krotinger - art; Lisa Lemieux - guidance; Brian Moody - physical education/family and consumer science; Dan Morse - English; Rachel Potts - co-op/vocational education; Federico Rodriguez - foreign language; and Bruce Sklar - music.

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