Dysart Unified School District to eliminate 147 positions

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Dysart Unified School District says it will be eliminating 147 positions in what's been called round one of deep cuts expected over the next three years.

The layoffs are a result of a failed override.

In November, voters chose not to continue the $18 million override which was used to fund operating costs.

Proponents of the override blame poor turnout and a lack of understanding about what the override is used for as the reason it did not pass.

On Thursday, 3TV learned that of the 147 positions being eliminated, 143 are teaching positions. Some of the positions were already vacant, so 112 people were notified they would not have jobs to come back to next school year.

"In my school today, it was a very sad and somber day when we were putting faces to kind of the reality of what was happening today," said Beth Maloney, 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year.

The loss of employees means eliminating programs, something Dysart Superintendent Gail Pletnick warned was coming back in November.

All-day kindergarten, P.E., performing arts, band, and other extracurricular and intervention programs will all cease to exist or be significantly reduced.

"What is disappointing to me is that I teach fifth grade and my fifth graders won't have band anymore, and I know that they're really disappointed about that," Maloney said.

Steve Rose has a seventh grader and a second grader that attend schools in the Dysart district. Among his many concerns with these cuts is the increase in class sizes.

"You feel like some kids are probably going to get left behind and that's, that's sad to think about," he said.

Maloney and Kristie Martorelli are both Arizona Teacher of the Year award recipients and they both teach in the Dysart district.

"Tomorrow morning and next year, 26,000 students will still walk into our classrooms, and so it's our job to make sure that we do the very best we can to meet every single one of those students' needs," Martorelli said. "And that's what Dysart is all about. It's what we've been about."

Still, they say the Legislature is making their jobs more difficult by not properly funding public schools, which is why they have to rely on these overrides to begin with.

According to the Dysart district, the state has cut $50 million from its budget.

"We really need our base funding restored and refunded so that overrides aren't the bone of our funding, but they're something in addition."

Until that happens, though, the award-winning educators will continue to do more with less.

"Our community will rally around this," Maloney said. "People will see the impact that this is having, and I really think our community will rally."

As previously mentioned, this is just round one, with $6 million being cut from the budget for the 2015-2016 school year.

The layoffs will be official next week once the governing board signs off.

In order to avoid rounds two and three of these deep cuts, efforts are underway to possibly seek a special election to get the override on the ballot again in November.