Northwest loses three teachers to budget cuts

Facing $10 million in budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year, the Shawnee Mission School District implemented a reduction in force (RIF) for the first time in the district’s 42-year history, which led to the elimination of three positions.

“We are saddened by this and having to do so,” Gene Johnson, USD 512 superintendent, told the Shawnee Dispatch. “We are also angered by the state because finances in our district and other districts have been so bleak the past two years.”

Biology teacher Shannon Collins and social studies teachers Katie Melcher and Rob Hassig were among the 37 teachers whose contracts were not renewed for the 2010-11school year. The 37 non renewed contracts add up to roughly $1.8 million when average salary and benefits are considered, district officials said.

All of the cuts were based on seniority, meaning that the teachers who have been working for SMSD the longest had the best chance of staying. The teachers facing RIF were notified by principal Bill Harrington.

“It’s very sad and discouraging. They don’t deserve to have this happen to them,” Harrington said.

Teachers have suggested their own solutions to the budget crisis, like focusing funding on education rather than on sports.

“If they want to solve it, they can affect sports. Everyone gets upset about cutting sophomore basketball, but they are sacrificing quality to make ends meet,” Hassig said.

Hassig, Melcher and Collins are focusing on being positive and not giving up on Northwest or their students. Each hopes that students learn from this situation.

“It doesn’t reflect who you are as an individual. You shouldn’t let a situation destroy what you want to do or distract you from reaching your ultimate goal,” Collins said.

But saying goodbye is tough, especially for Melcher, who is also a NW alumna.

“I’m going to miss everything. This is my home. I grew up here. This my 13th bonfire. This isn’t another job for me. I’m going to miss my kids, faculty, activities and wearing orange every Friday,” Melcher said. “I will still be around, and I will still be part of the Orange Army.”

Melcher received word Monday that she is first on the list of teachers who could be re-hired.

-Rachael Demjanik