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Fort Worth won't lay off teachers in upcoming school year

FORT WORTH -- Officials announced that no teachers will be laid off next school year even though the Fort Worth district fell short of the number of educators it hoped would retire or resign.

At Tuesday night's board meeting, Steven Poole, deputy executive director of the United Educators Association, which represents area school employees, thanked the district's staff for avoiding teacher cuts.

"I know a lot of people were worried, including myself," Poole said.

The district had offered a bonus of up to $10,000 to the first 600 teachers and 100 degreed professionals who notified officials early that they would not return next school year. Officials met their goal in having 200 elementary teachers do so, but only 166 secondary teachers sent in notification.

The district had been working to cut costs and to make up for a $13.5 million shortfall in which nearly 200 secondary teachers were not budgeted this school year.

But Superintendent Walter Dansby said that the numbers are looking good so far and that staff will be reassigned based on needs. Dansby said he expects more teachers to announce their resignations as they may move on to other jobs this summer or retire.

"Basically, we got what we needed," Dansby said. "We never anticipated getting that many resignations, but we offered it up, hoping it would give us a little bit more room if we did get them all."

Dansby said other positions are still being reviewed for possible cuts. However, state law requires certain school employees, particularly teachers and some degreed professionals, to be notified at least 45 days before the last day of school if they are to be cut. That meant teachers had to be notified by this week.

Hank Johnson, the district's chief financial officer, said the budget is looking a little brighter than expected.

The district was facing a $57 million shortfall next school year but has reduced that by $16.5 million.

About $12.5 million of that has come from efforts such as not filling vacancies and reducing spending on travel, utilities and other areas, Johnson said.

The district expects to receive about $4 million in federal funds for some Medicare reimbursements, such as those related to special education.

The savings from those teachers and professionals who are not returning next year have yet to be calculated. The district may need to fill some of those positions if they are in critical-needs areas, such as math and science.

The district will also have a healthier amount in its reserves than initially expected -- about $100 million rather than $85 million at the end of this fiscal year.

The district needs to cut $40 million this year and next to help absorb state funding reductions that hit school districts across Texas, Johnson said. He hopes the district will cut at least half of that this year and will continuously look at restructuring where it can to better use resources.

Eva-Marie Ayala,

817-390-7700

Twitter: @fwstayala

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