- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

As the school year comes to a close, D.C. public school employees say many of their colleagues who received pink slips in a massive restructuring effort are becoming no-shows at work or are spending their work hours seeking other jobs.
"It looks like a ghost town," said one school-system employee who has received a pink slip. "The parking lots are half as full as they used to be. People are using their sick leave and vacation to hunt for new jobs."
The employee said as many as a quarter of employees are absent from some departments.
Other workers said many who have received termination notices remain at work, but use work hours to hunt for jobs.
School-system officials said there is little they can do to stem the poor morale, but they hope quick action to terminate or rehire employees will solve the problem.
Early last month, schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance announced a reorganization plan that included asking 1,100 administration employees to reapply for their jobs in an effort to cut 126 jobs and save $16.3 million annually.
Since then, 734 jobs have been advertised, and the school system's human resources office has received more than 7,000 applications, said Human Resources Director Patricia Lattimore. She said she didn't know how many were from employees who were given pink slips, but said she expects a significant number of them to reapply.
Top managers, such as the chief operating officer and the chief of staff, are exempt from the reorganization plan. The directors of transportation and security, the general counsel and the executive officer have to reapply for their jobs.
"They will stay," parent Teresa Bollech said of the employees who received letters to reapply for their jobs, which now include job descriptions. "They are just going through the hoops."
Ms.Lattimore said she has not seen low morale among employees about to be laid off.
The cuts initially were scheduled for last fall as part of Mr. Vance's plan to reform the 68,000-student school system to respond more effectively to schools and parents. Under the old system, there were numerous redundancies and difficulties in holding employees accountable, officials said.
Departments affected by the cuts include human resources, special education, finance, transportation, facilities, procurement, the office of the general counsel and security.
School ends June 18, and summer school begins June 26. In the week in between, school officials say they will complete the reorganization.
But some parents are worried about the effects the initiative has had on services.
"I applaud Paul Vance for trying to bring in reform," Mrs. Bollech said. "But I would like to know what he is doing to make sure the structure is still there for the children through this process. There needs to be a backup plan."
There have been staff reorganizations before with limited success, say parents and school activists.
One school official privately bemoaned the pace of the reorganization as too slow, saying, "It is like they don't know what they are doing or [have] the wherewithal to complete it."
Meanwhile, Mr. Vance yesterday announced that six schools will be added to the list of nine "transformation" schools poor-performing schools that receive special attention under a new three-to-five-year program that includes revamping curriculum, supplying extra resources and providing additional help for failing students.
The transformation schools picked yesterdayare Choice Academy Middle School, Choice Academy High School and Evans Middle School in Northeast; Stanton and Wilkinson elementaries in Southeast; and Walker-Jones Elementary in Northwest.
Vaishali Honawar contributed to this report.

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