Over three dozen Wilkes-Barre Area School District employees furloughed

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Monday, Wilkes-Barre Area students were able to reunite with teachers in person. After a school board meeting the same day, the district will be letting go of up to 40 education professionals heading into the next school year.

After impassioned pleas, and with a 7-2 vote, those furloughs went through.

“You know, I’m trying to see something positive. I just can’t see it right now,” said Annie Rood, 1st Vice President, Wilkes-Barre Area Education Association.

Just hours after some students here in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, were able to reunite with teachers in the classroom, we learned that some teachers aren’t coming back next school year.

“I hope, sooner rather than later we can bring them back so they can continue to perform,” said School Board Director, Ned Evans.

Citing a financial recovery plan, the school board voted again to furlough up to 40 education professionals heading into the 2021/2022 school year. Five years after the last major furloughs.

The Wilkes-Barre Area Education Association submitted passionate pleas against it, but now are forced to move on.

“We have provided the options, you know, as, as recently as last week, where they didn’t really want to sit down and discuss with us and now, we have you know where there should be excitement going back in and welcoming students back into the class, we now have teachers that are fearful for their jobs,” said Kevin Sickle, 2nd Vice President, Wilkes-Barre Area Education Association.

Superintendent Brian Costello points to consolidation as a means to right the district, financially, over the years. They say this opens up opportunity for retraining and better serving grades k-12.

“We can repurpose our faculty so as somebody retires in the elementary, we’ve been able to utilize those teachers and get them certified so that they will be able to start teaching in elementary and then really begin tackling our situation with elementary by lowering those class sizes,” Costello said.

Teachers agree overcrowding is an issue there, but some argue this was not the way to go about addressing it.

“One thing that I wish they wouldn’t have done was reconsidered and wanted to restructure first, rather than to break things down and build it back up again,” said Sickle.

“By reallocating teachers that already have the proper credentials to take these other positions and lighten the load from these teachers is a better option for the success of our students,” said Michael Komorek, President of the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.

The vote is done, and dozens of teachers will not be returning to the district next year. The association says adapting has become harder every time.

“Our bottom line is, the students know that has always been our bottom line and somehow we have to develop plans personally, and as a whole as teachers to make this work again,” Rood said.

The school district was able to bring back most of the educators who were furloughed in 2016. The education association says they should have had more input then. They will now monitor the furlough process into next year.

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