SOUTH KINGSTOWN--Feelings of positivity and optimism in the relations between teachers and the school committee waned Tuesday night as teachers from across the district expressed their disappointment in the school committee’s decision to send 144 teachers non-renewal letters.
There was much tension between the school committee and superintendent and the teachers as many teachers attended the committee meeting to express their concerns, causing the meeting to be held in the high school auditorium instead of the library to accommodate the crowd.
“We know the economic times are tough and we know the state aid is limited and we understand the need for flexibility, but laying off 144 teachers is excessive,” Martha Spiewak, a math teacher at South Kingstown High School said. “It is counterproductive to be so callous of the employees.”
“We have a wonderful school department here. We know how committed you are to the work. We have always felt the partnership within the learning community insulated us,” Christine Heid said, teacher at Matunuck Elementary School and union president of the town’s teacher’s union. “When East Providence happened, we thought that would never happen here. This is South Kingstown. But, after 41 percent of teachers in the town received pink slips that positivity is eroding here.”
Despite disapproval from many teachers assembled in the auditorium, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow tried to reassure teachers that the committee’s decision to send out the non-renewals was only to create flexibility as the committee undergoes its budget process.
“This year, we sent out 43 more notices than last year,” Stringfellow said. “It was not intended to create angst among teachers but to create flexibility in the revenue shortfalls. Clearly, our district would be unable to function if we laid off all of those teachers.”
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