44 Johnston educators ‘essentially’ laid off

Around 12% of town’s public school staff subject to ‘employment non-renewals’

Posted 3/6/24

The “non-renewal” list included the names of 40 Johnston educators.

“Special Educator, Ferri Middle School … Guidance Counselor at Barnes School … Math Teacher, …

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44 Johnston educators ‘essentially’ laid off

Around 12% of town’s public school staff subject to ‘employment non-renewals’


The “non-renewal” list included the names of more than 40 Johnston educators.

“Special Educator, Ferri Middle School … Guidance Counselor at Barnes School … Math Teacher, Johnston High School … Social Worker, Brown Avenue …” Johnston Public Schools Superintendent Bernard DiLullo Jr. read off the list, following each name with the teacher’s position.

DiLullo read the list to start last week’s Special School Committee meeting.

The meeting agenda’s first action item was the “employment non-renewals for the submitted list of certified staff members.” According to DiLullo, “a non-renewal is essentially a lay off.”

Following the meeting, DiLullo said the list contained the names of 40 educators. On Monday, March 11, he clarified that the list actually included "44 total teachers and support staff." These educators will no longer have a job in Johnston at the end of this school year. The longer-than-usual list of “non-renewals” included both limited-time positions and roles no longer paid for by federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. 

“MLL Teacher, Winsor Hill,” DiLullo continued, reading the names and the positions that have been cut from the faculty of Johnston’s schools — around 12 percent of the total teaching staff, according to the superintendent. “Science Teacher, Johnston High School … Geometry Teacher, Ferri Middle School … Geography Teacher, Ferri Middle School … Science Teacher, Johnston High School … Special Educator, Ferri Middle School … Music Teacher at Barnes and ECC … MLL Teacher, Barnes and Winsor … Special Educator, Brown Avenue … Planet and Culture Coordinator, Johnston High School … Special Educator, Winsor … Special Educator, Brown Avenue … Johnston High School science teacher … MLL, Thornton … Science Teacher, Ferri Middle School … Barnes Elementary School, Grade 3 teacher … and … Special Educator at Barnes.”

The positions included those hired to teach Johnston’s booming Multi-Lingual Learner (MLL) population, and core STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) course teachers.

“I read these in order of their seniority,” DiLullo told the four members of the school committee and the audience, which was comprised mostly of staff and union officials there to discuss a grievance and collective bargaining agreement during executive session.

The School Committee — Chairman Robert LaFazia, Vice-Chairman Joseph Rotella, Dawn M. Aloisio and MarySue Andreozzi (member Susan M. Mansolillo was absent) — offered no discussion before they voted unanimously to approve the list of “non-renewals.” All five of the members were emailed requests for comment after the Tuesday, Feb. 27 meeting. None responded.

“There were 40 names on the list,” DiLullo confirmed after the meeting. When asked if “non renewals are “similar to layoffs”, DiLullo answered: “A non-renewal is essentially a lay off.”

“The non-renewals are a combination of funding issues,” DiLullo explained. “Some were teachers who were in one year positions and some were funded through ESSER grants which will end in September.”

The district is also in the middle of a year-long budget crunch. They asked the town for over $4 million more funding for this year, over last year, but received less than half of their funding request. School finances have been the subject of prolonged audits and examinations by accountants and lawyers hired by Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena Jr., who has attempted a “financial takeover” of the schools (by the town).

“We are currently working on our Fiscal Year 25 budget and will identify needed positions for next year and there will be call backs for some of the certified staff that were non-renewed,” DiLullo said.

The list of 40 staff members represented a significant portion of the district’s total faculty.

“It’s about 12% of the staff,” DiLullo said. “Last year there were about 30 non-renewals.” And, according to DiLullo, last year, “20 certified staff members returned to fill vacant positions.”

“The difference this year is the ending of the ESSER funding and the elimination of those positions,” DiLullo said after last Tuesday’s meeting. “Other than that the process is typical.”

The 40 “non-renewals” will be “effective at the end of the current school year,” DiLullo clarified earlier this week.

“Recalls are done when our position budget is finalized, typically between mid May and mid June,” he explained. “Our teachers are paid through the summer and are not eligible for unemployment.”

When informed of the “non-renewals,” Polisena asked if the affected positions were created by ESSER funds. He researched the agenda item and replied again, later the next day.

“These were in fact ESSER employees,” Polisena explained. “This is a move that will be made by every school department across the state and country. The federal government provided federal funds to all school districts for hiring support staff to combat learning loss that occurred during the pandemic. These ESSER grant funds from the federal government are now gone and are not being renewed.”

Polisena’s not a fan of signing the town up for what he considers future unfunded mandates.

“This was one of two reasons why I did not join Learn365,” Polisena said, referencing a program championed by Gov. Dan McKee. The decision possibly cost Johnston some short-term grant money, but Polisena argues it will save the town in the long-run. “Similar to ESSER, I am not of the belief those state funds will remain in perpetuity. If they … don’t, those programs will abruptly end and the employees hired for them will be laid off.”


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