April 19, 2014

Elyria
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After ‘Black Thursday’

One-third of the teachers in the Lorain City Schools on June 7 received their walking papers from the district, casualties of a $4.75 million shortfall. The teachers call that day “Black Thursday.” These are the stories of two of the dismissed workers.
There are 244 others.

Her husband retains his job, but she loses hers

LORAIN — Wendy Dull was not surprised when the principal of Southview High School walked into her classroom and handed her a letter informing her that she had been laid off. After all, she was a drama teacher who knew that when times get tough in public education, fine arts programs are the first to take a hit.
She already was stretched thin, forced to split her time between two schools in an attempt to keep the district’s dying theater program from going under.
Dull, who taught for
10 years in Lorain, is one of 246 teachers from the Lorain City School District who found themselves without a job to come back to next school year. Although no two stories or struggles are the same, all of the unemployed teachers must grapple with one daunting question: What now?
The Lorain City School District recently cut 246 teachers, a move that that will eliminate $12.5 million from the district’s $91 million budget.
Dull’s husband, David, still is employed as a math teacher at Southview, but the household income has been cut in half. With three children at home, the prospect of staying out of financial trouble looks grim.
“Both of our jobs were crucial,” Dull said. “We were barely making it on what both of us made. We have to sell the house and find a new place — but who is going to finance us now?”
On the day the letter came, a day teachers are now dubbing “Black Thursday,” Dull didn’t have time to dwell on it. She had to run home after work before leaving again to shop for a new dress. Southview High valedictorian Michelle Athanas had chosen Dull as the teacher who made the biggest impact on her high school experience. She was going to be honored at a banquet that very night.
“I was so blown away by what she had to say,” Dull said. “She chose me as the most inspirational teacher, letting me know how much I meant to her.”
The irony of Black Thursday was just beginning for Dull.
Before the banquet, Dull stopped back home to check the mail and received a letter notifying her of next year’s salary, a sharp contrast from the letter she received earlier that day which began: “We regret to inform you…”
“It was so eerie,” Dull said about the somber silence that swept over the school while anxious teachers waited for their letter. “People were walking around like zombies. It was like waiting for the grim reaper.”
Teachers at Southview were told by administrators that letters would be delivered by 10 a.m., but teachers waited in suspense until after 1:30 p.m. That blunder affected more than one school.
Dawn Webb, who lost her teaching job after nine years of service, said her school expected letters to arrive at 9:30 a.m. Emerson Elementary teachers waited until 12:30 p.m. before they were finally called into the school library, where she said a stack of letters was waiting.
“The principal asked us if we wanted to receive our letters privately or in a group,” Webb said. “We chose to get our letters as a group, so we could support each other.”
Webb said she sees the mix up with the letters as another example of confusion and uncertainty that led up to the catastrophic job cuts.
“Everything happened way too fast,” Webb said. “I always knew there would be cuts. We all knew. But nobody thought they would go that deep.”
Contact Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.

061707teacher.jpg STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Wendy Dull reads books with her children, Zachary, 5 (left), Katherine, 3, and Kyle, 6, at their Elyria home. Dull was laid off as a teacher at Southview High School.