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Monday, June 16, 2014

Open Government Project: Nashua School District fulfills request for list of teachers who received pink slips

NASHUA – The debate over the education budget has been at times a bitter and emotional one, particularly when the budget reductions involve layoffs.

After the Nashua School district issued pink slips to teachers and staff in April, The Telegraph wanted to gain insight into how the school district determined who received the slips and which schools, or departments were affected the most. ...

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NASHUA – The debate over the education budget has been at times a bitter and emotional one, particularly when the budget reductions involve layoffs.

After the Nashua School district issued pink slips to teachers and staff in April, The Telegraph wanted to gain insight into how the school district determined who received the slips and which schools, or departments were affected the most.

Since faculty and staff can be shuffled between facilities in the district when a position is eliminated due to budget cuts, the person working that job might be let go. For example, if an elementary school teaching position was being eliminated at one school, but another teacher retired from a different school across the city, the remaining teacher could be transferred to fill the vacancy created by the retirement.

To paint the budget picture in greater detail, we asked Superintendent Mark Conrad to release the list of names of personnel who received pink slips.

Conrad said information on individual teachers such as The Telegraph’s past request for sick time information, and the recent request for a list of laid-off personnel required further scrutiny.

“In these instances, I owed staff due diligence from our attorney.”

Conrad released the information, but he had his concerns.

“We work to maintain an open, transparent system...we don’t go through the
formal process 95 percent of the time. In those few instances, it’s been around a question as to whether the information falls under the Right to Know law,” said Conrad.

The layoff process had been emotional for everyone involved, and he didn’t want to make it worse for the personnel already facing a difficult situation.

Conrad acknowledged the information was public, but asked that the Telegraph not to publish the teachers’ names.

Since the purpose of the request was for a better understanding of the budget process, we agreed with Conrad that publishing specific names wouldn’t be necessary or constructive.

Conrad took a couple of days to notify affected staff their names were being shared with the press.

What the information shows is seven teachers received pink slips as a result of budget cuts. They work at Elm Street Middle School, both high schools, as well as Broad Street, Amherst Street, Dr. Crisp and Mount Pleasant elementary schools. They worked for the school district for a variety of years, some for less than a year and one for almost a decade.

If all of them wind up losing their jobs, it would save the school district about $211,000.

The numbers remind us that the budget process is about money for sure, but it’s also about people. And that not all of the information gathered by the paper has to find its way into print.