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Penn Hills District Votes To Furlough 43 Teachers

PENN HILLS (KDKA) -- The Penn Hills School Board Tuesday night voted 7 to 2 to eliminate 43 teaching jobs. Many of the teachers affected are in special education programs. The furloughs take effect at the end of the school year.

How cash-strapped is the Penn Hills School District?

Superintendent Nancy Hines told a packed school board meeting that, among other things, the district got financial help last year from the Pennsylvania State Education Department to keep the lights on in district schools.

She explained the cash crunch this way: "We had to accept money from PDE to help us keep the utilities on after the Memorial Day Weekend last year."

Hines added, "Our staff in our buildings confirmed that there were shut off notices posted in our buildings."

Hines said the list of the district's financial problems was a lengthy one.

"We had to tell employees to reconsider vacations, based on concerns of not being able to meet payroll," she explained.

But, faced with the loss of 43 teaching jobs, the head of the Penn Hills Education Association said students in this district stand to be the biggest losers.

Robert Hoffman said, "[Students will] no longer will have access to popular programs that they've enjoyed over the last decade," which prepared them to become adults.

The teachers union says it will now file a grievance.

Parents, especially those with special needs children, can't understand why the district would cut special education programs and teachers.

"If you need to make cuts, you need to make it anywhere but special ed," said Nikolette Senge, whose son has autism. "These kids need it more than anybody else, they need us to protect them."

Other parents at the meeting say it's a bad sign losing teachers.

"We should be feeding our teachers more money," said parent Heather Mahone. "So they didn't have to go anywhere else. This is our community, we're proud of our community, it's a huge community and it does not need to deteriorate, at all."

There was a brief interruption to last night's meeting, thanks to some parents not being able to get into the meeting room.

Police were monitoring the room, which had a capacity of 300 people. Some parents and community members were turned away at the door, due to overcrowding concerns.

Eventually, everyone was allowed in to attend.

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