- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

D.C. public school administrators will use a weighted evaluation system with extra points for D.C. residents in deciding which public school employees will be sent layoff notices over the holidays.

The District announced Tuesday that it has targeted 771 jobs for elimination to close a $38 million budget deficit in the 67,000-student school system.

Interim D.C. schools Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie and Chief Operating Officer Louis J. Erste plan to identify by Dec. 19 the employees who will lose their jobs. Administrators will use a system that gives an employee as many as 105 points — 25 potential points each in four areas: job performance, seniority, professional achievement, and contributions to a school. An additional five points will be given to employees living in the District.

Those with the fewest points will receive layoff notices by the end of the month, with their last workday on Jan. 29.

Public school advocates expressed concern yesterday about whether the District can properly review thousands of documents in just a week. They also wondered whether some parts of the evaluation system, such as “contributions to the school,” are overly subjective.

“It seems operationally ill-conceived,” said Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund, a D.C.-based school-advocacy organization.

“It’s not bad to have a system that goes beyond seniority, because you don’t want to end up losing all of your young teachers,” Mrs. Filardo said. “The problem is, this system seems very subjective.”

Parents said they are worried that administrators are rushing to make the layoffs.

“They’re trying to do this in one week. Young teachers are already telling their principals that they’re sending out resumes,” said Julie Koczela, a parent.

School officials said they want to avoid layoffs in the elementary school, so high schools will feel the brunt of the cuts.

“The goal is to protect the elementary schools until the end and focus on the secondaries,” Mr. Erste said during a press conference announcing the cuts earlier this week.

Officials at D.C. Voice, another advocacy group, said they are planning to fight the job cuts. They say some activists could seek legal action.

“We think this is horrendous,” Carmella Mazzotta, executive director of D.C. Voice, said of the impending layoffs. “We’re just sitting down to think this all through right now.”

She said the organization likely will begin a letter-writing campaign and stage public protests in an effort to avoid the job cuts.

D.C. school officials say the layoffs are necessary because a $21 million budget gap at the start of the school year grew to $38 million as a result of a three-month delay in making personnel cuts.

D.C. school administrators did not return phone calls yesterday.

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