December 19, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
28°F
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In Avon Lake, quest for new job begins

Dawn Webb’s colonial style house is on a quiet street in Avon Lake. It’s a small neighborhood plush with trimmed green lawns. Rocking chairs and benches decorate many of the front porches. An apple pie in the window would not seem out of place.
Usually at 11 a.m. on a Friday, Webb would be teaching her class of second graders at Emerson Elementary School, not standing outside watering her front lawn.
But nothing about the past few weeks has been normal for Webb and the
245 other teachers from the Lorain City School District who lost their jobs so the district can cut $12.5 million from its $91 million budget.
“I always knew there would be cuts — we all knew,” Webb said. “But nobody thought they would go that deep.”
The signs of trouble appeared periodically in the district. Classrooms were consolidated, and teachers were being moved. Webb, who has taught for 10 years in Lorain, was moved from a first grade classroom to teaching second grade.
In the months leading up to the mass layoffs, teachers were embroiled in negotiations between the board of education, Lorain Education Association and themselves. There was the possibility that the state was going to step in, which would result in heavy job cuts.
“Everything happened way too fast,” Webb said. “I went to one union meeting that started at six. I left around eight, but the meeting went on until after midnight.”
In the end, the cuts were far worse than anyone had estimated, Webb said. Adding that, with the cuts coming with such little notice, she was left unemployed and unprepared.
“They let us know so late that most districts have already hired for the fall,” Webb said. “My sons are all in high school. I worry about them going to college. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Webb has three sons. The older two are autistic, and the youngest suffers from dyslexia. She said medical expenses are a challenge she doesn’t know how to face. When her benefits expire, she will have to go on COBRA, a federally funded insurance plan, which will cost her $1,200 a month. She also has to file for unemployment.
“Applying for unemployment was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Webb said. “I wish the union told us what to do when our pay ran out.”
Many of the unemployed teachers attended a seminar at Lorain County Community College, where they were walked through the process of applying for unemployment benefits. The seminar also provided them with information packets to assist them in finding health care.
Webb already has applied for teaching jobs in the Cleveland area.
“I’m still paying off $20,000 in student loans,” Webb said. “My sons will all start their summer jobs soon. That will help our financial situation.”
The financial hardships are starting to take their toll on teachers all over the county. Wendy Dull, who taught drama classes at Southview High for 10 years, will be putting her house on the market.
She lives in a newer housing development in Elyria with her three children and husband, David, who works as a math teacher at Southview but was lucky enough to keep his job. With Wendy out of work, the family income has been halved.
“They’re letting us go without an umbrella to fall back on,” Wendy Dull said. “I’m not opposed to changing careers. I have the skill level, but I don’t have the degree other businesses want. I have three kids. I don’t know how to pay the bills and go back to school.”  
Contact Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.