Dysart Unified School District to lay off 100-plus teachers

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Despite classroom sizes continuing to grow, one Valley school district voted Wednesday night to lay off teachers.

Dysart Unified School District will eliminate more than 100 teaching positions.

The district says the money to pay them just isn't there.

"I know many of these teachers," said parent Christina Counts. "They've become friends. They've become family, and I see them every day. They're the ones who are educating our children. It is our responsibility as parents to stand up for them."

Board members were also defending the teachers that they would later vote to let go.

"This is a dark day for Dysart," said Governing Board Member Traci Sawyer-Sinkbeil. 

The Dysart Unified School District Governing Board made the grim decision to let go of 112 teachers come the next school year.

The school district is simply strapped for cash. It must cut $6 million from its budget for the 2015-2016 school year.

"I have a son that, coming into the district, he did not know how to read," said parent Sherrell Davis. "The teachers in the first and second and third grade embraced him, along with the intervention teachers, and have gotten him up to a third-grade reading level. Without them, I don't know what I would have done."

Extracurriculars will see cuts as well, in all-day kindergarten, P.E., arts and sports.

Of the teachers cut, 44 will be kindergarten teachers.

Teachers who get to keep their jobs are preparing for bigger class sizes.

The cuts come after a low voter turnout resulted in the rejection of a proposed $18 million override in November, which would have kept the A-rated district intact.

"It's hard for our teachers right now," said 2012 Arizona Teacher of the Year Kristie Martorelli. "Morale is low because we know this is different than any other situation of a layoff. We have people that are doing everything right but yet will still be not having a job next year."

The district wants to get another override on the ballot again this November.

If it does not pass again, the district would then be looking at more deep cuts.