Thursday, January 4, 2024

School board members reject proposed layoffs

Members of the Wayne Westland Board of Education unanimously rejected Superintendent of Schools John Dignan's suggested staffing cuts during their Dec. 21 meeting.

The staffing cuts and layoffs were proposed in response to the abrupt discovery of a $17 million deficit in the school district budget. Board members and administrators believed the district was operating with a strong positive balance rather than the huge deficit. The deficit was discovered during a routine audit of district finances.

The rumored layoffs were criticized and protested on social media and several union leaders suggested the move would be an unfair labor practice in violation of current employment contracts. Parents also protested any layoffs of staff during a Dec. 18 meeting of the board members. Jobs suggested for layoff included administrative positions and roles such as social workers, student monitors and custodians, according to the board members' meeting packets.

Applause from the audience followed the board rejection of the proposal.

Dignan cautioned the board members that payroll is one of the largest costs in the district and said he believed the district could save money with some staffing adjustments. Dignan already reassigned and reclassified several employees in an attempt to cut costs. That realignment could result in some grant funding, officials said.

Dignan and district administrators have not confirmed the $17 million deficit but note that cost cutting will be necessary to put the district on a sound financial footing. 

He has repeatedly said members of the community will have input into those cost cutting measures at focus groups and school board meetings.