September 17, 2014

Elyria
Clear
48°F
test

‘I don’t know what I’m going to do now’

Laid-off Lorain teacher one of 11 blindsided by job loss

LORAIN — Patricia VanValey was at a store buying supplies for her teaching job when her cell phone started ringing.
It was her friend, a fellow teacher, shouting that VanValey’s name was on a list of laid-off teachers the school board would be approving in just a few hours. It was the first notice she’d received that her six-year career with Lorain Schools was ending.
Stashing the supplies she’d just bought — $45 worth of pens, paper and three sets of books for her ninth-grade language arts class — she made her way to Friday’s school board meeting. There, in less than five minutes, she watched the board approve the cuts to avoid an $11 million budget shortfall — cuts that meant she now was unemployed.
“I thought, ‘Why the heck am I finding out now?’ ” she said.
VanValey was not one of the 246 teachers who received letters from the district in early June stating they could be laid off. The letters were sent at the request of the teachers union, which knew there would be cuts, and asked that the teachers be notified so they could look for another job.
David Williams, director of operations and human resources for the district, said the teachers were well aware that anyone could be laid off, regardless of who got the letters. He, the school attorney, treasurer, district supervisors and the teachers union decided who would be let go, Williams said.
The letters that were mailed out in June were just to please the union, he said, and were by no means official. The list was changed many times, with officials picking and choosing mainly based on seniority and certification.
But in the end, 232 of the teachers who received letters in June were, in fact, laid off, and three were kept because they were music teachers. Williams said he didn’t know what happened with the 11 who thought they were blindsided Friday.
“There were lots of factors we looked at, so I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe there was an error. I don’t know.”
Lorain Schools Superintendent Dee Morgan said administrators did the best they could under the circumstances.
“We’re sorry for all the 243 that they didn’t get notified sooner,” she said. “I have empathy for all the people, because even some of those notified in June are still looking for jobs.”
VanValey, 52, still has the bag of teacher supplies in the back seat of her car. She’s already started looking for other jobs in Northeast Ohio, without any luck.
She has a master’s degree in urban education and has one year left to complete her second master’s degree, which would allow her to become a principal.
“The worst thing is that I had an opportunity to teach in Elyria and Avon Lake, but I wanted to come here,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.

072607teacher.jpgSteve Manheim / Chronicle
Patricia VanValey, of Avon Lake, was laid off last week from General Johnnie Wilson Middle School in Lorain.