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Layoffs at MacLaren attributed to low enrollment

Five Lord High School employees, including Principal Scott Harris, will lose their jobs, effective Nov. 1


MacLaren and Hillcrest Youth Correctional facilities are slashing one-third of their combined budget — resulting in a severe reduction in staff — thanks to a decline in enrollment, officials say.

William P. Lord High School at MacLaren in Woodburn and Farrell High School at Hillcrest in Salem are run through Willamette Education Service District, which was forced to cut $790,000 from a $2.4 million contract with Oregon Youth Authority due to fewer enrolled students than the number specified in the contract. This will result in the elimination of one administrator, up to 10 licensed teachers and up to two classified positions, according to Brian Florip, communications coordinator at WESD.

“The key factor that drives a cut is that the population at MacLaren and Hillcrest is trending down,” Florip said. “The population usually goes back up at the end of summer but this year we didn’t see that. OYA confirmed that numbers are still going down so we had to make a move to address it.”

The WESD board approved the reduction at a meeting Oct. 1, and employees began receiving layoff notifications the following day. Among the casualties is Scott Harris, who has served aby: LINDSAY KEEFER - Lindsay Keefer | Woodburn Independent Scott Harris, principal of Lord High School at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, addresses graduates during a commencement ceremony in June. Harris is one of five MacLaren employees who will be laid off Nov. 1.s principal of Lord High School for six years.

“I was told two weeks ago there would be a reduction in administrators but didn’t get the final word till last week,” Harris wrote in an email last week. “My staff was told cuts were coming but specific staff (members) were not notified until (Wednesday).”

Bill Conlon, principal at Farrell High School, will now assume that position for both locations, effective Nov. 1. In addition to Harris, five employees at MacLaren will lose their jobs, two of which work half-time, Harris said.

“In addition one of my other teachers has been reduced to .75 status,” he added. “We are funded on our actual student numbers and those are down from what was projected — ODE based our contract on 91 students and we have approximately 64 today.”

Florip pointed out that seniority — and licensure in the case of teachers — were considered when making the decision who to cut.

Harris said he is not totally surprised with this outcome.

“OYA has been reducing bed capacity at MacLaren for the past several years,” Harris said. “When I got here six years ago they had 320 students. Now they have 149.”

CJ Drake, spokesman for OYA, said OYA will work with WESD in the midst of these changes.

“We appreciate the dedication of Willamette Education Service District teachers and staff,” Drake said. “We seek the most beneficial options for educating at-risk youth so they can lead productive, crime-free lives after the completion of their court-ordered commitments. We will continue working with WESD to make sure any changes maintain those options.”

As for continuing an academic program for the teenage male residents at the two facilities, Florip said there will have to be a lot more coordination between the two campuses.

“Everything has been separate, but because of the size of the cuts, they will have to do some cooperative programming, with one principal, possibly the same core teaching staff and a rotating schedule,” he said.

Because the core curriculum takes priority, it’s hard to say how programs, such as the welding program at MacLaren, will fare through this recent wave of cuts.

“These will be finalized in the next month,” Florip said. “The intention is to maintain all the core subjects to maintain accreditation of the two schools. We may have to adjust the school schedule and bounce around elective teachers, but every effort will be made to maintain as broad a curriculum as we can.”

Harris is also worried about the future of vocational training as schools move forward without some of the vocational programs that make MacLaren unique, such as horticulture and metal fabrication.

“Students will lose some very gifted teachers and will not have the full array of classes on a full-time basis, as some staff will be rotated between Hillcrest and MacLaren,” he said. “While not perfect, students will have the basics covered.”



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