Site helps laid-off teachers find work

Unemployed educators looking for a new job this summer have a one-stop shopping Web site to help them get back on their feet.”Teachers in Transition” was created by the New Hampshire Office of Workforce Opportunity in response to the high volume of reports chronicling school districts dealing with budget cuts and looking toward layoffs and staff cuts.Michael Power, executive director of the state Workforce Opportunity Council, said his staff focuses on providing information needed to get another job to employees in a field with high layoffs.The site, launched in June, includes everything from information for teachers on unemployment benefits to help identifying non-teaching occupations for which their skills could be transferred. It can be accessed through the Office of Workforce Opportunity Web site at”We’ve been reading, as everybody has been, about potential layoffs of teachers and paraprofessionals,” Power said. “We thought we ought to present the teachers with opportunities they may not have otherwise looked at, such as other career fields they would be qualified for.”For those who want to stay in education, there are links to school job listings in New Hampshire and nationally.For those thinking about switching to a different career field, Power said an effort was made to match up certain types of educators with other fields to which their experience could be transferred. For example, the site suggests that secondary-level teachers could explore jobs in fields such as research and writing/editing. The site also directs teachers to the vocational training programs.”They’re educated, they’re skilled, and there are a lot of other opportunities,” Power said. “They’re a good group, and we want to keep them in New Hampshire.”‘Proactive’ effortThis is the first year the Office of Workforce Opportunity has created a site specific to educators. Power said response has been positive, as word spreads through various education associations about the resource.Although the site was created out of anecdotal evidence that layoffs are higher than usual for educators, putting an exact figure on the number of teachers and paraprofessionals who have lost their jobs this summer can be tricky.For example, the Nashua School District sent out layoff notices to dozens of employees this spring, but it doesn’t necessarily mean all will lose their jobs. Some may have been or will be recalled once others choose to retire or leave for another position.However, some positions were cut in next year’s budget, meaning those employees had to find other work. Among those positions cut were several paid for through the federal stimulus package, funding for which ran out this summer.The National Education Association-New Hampshire, the state’s largest teachers union, didn’t have any specific numbers on how many of their members lost their jobs this summer. Union head Rhonda Wesolowski said this won’t be known until the end of the summer.A report released in June by the Center on Education Policy found the end of federal stimulus funding has led school districts across the country to make personnel cuts. Sixty-one percent of districts that anticipate funding shortfalls next year plan to cut staff, the study found. That could go higher, since a third of districts surveyed at the time hadn’t decided where to cut.During the recession, Power said his office was been dealing with mass layoffs and closures in fields such as manufacturing, retail and customer service. That has calmed down and job growth has gone up, but Power said it was important to make sure teachers suddenly out of work had somewhere to go.”We wanted to be proactive rather than reactive,” Power said. “We don’t want anybody not to have a job who wants a job.” — MICHAEL BRINDLEY/THE TELEGRAPH