ORLANDO, Fla. – Friday was D-day for an estimated 12 Florida Virtual School teachers and support staff who received calls from the Orlando school officially placing them on paid administrative leave “effective immediately.”
Teachers who had opted not to accept the offer to relocate to Florida started receiving the unexpected calls Friday morning.
“I can’t even say goodbye to my students,” Lauren Masino, a seventh-grade virtual science teacher, said.
Masino, a mother of two living in North Carolina, had been teaching 77 students until last week.
Masino said no one saw this coming because originally, they were told they would be needed until June 30, which is the end of the school year.
“By the time I got off the phone, my systems had been suspended," she said. “Of the 77 students that remained in my class, I had hoped to help them finish so they didn’t have to go through the stress of transferring to a new teacher with only three assignments left.”
News 6 obtained a voice message left by human resources chief Alfred Lopez to one of the 11 ousted teachers.
The message said, in part: “A decision has been made to non-renew your contract effective immediately. You will be paid through June 30, 2018.”
Lopez also said that the employees were on administrative leave and would receive full benefits and salary through June 30.
FLVS spokesperson Tania Clow said some employees “decided to relocate, others retired and others took positions with FLVS Global."
Clow said teachers were removed so they could move to the next step in their careers.
“We will work closely with students to assure a seamless transition for the student and his/her parents/guardians,” she said.
Clow said because the virtual flex program offers year-round enrollment, "there is not a fixed end-of-school-year date.”
FLVS general counsel Frank Kruppenbacher told News 6 that a handful of employees had “asked for extensions,” while the others decided not to relocate, “So their jobs will be eliminated and replaced with Florida people.”
Kruppenbacher said the new policy to bring the 33 jobs back to Florida was the directive of
the FLVS executive board.
Kruppenbacher said FLVS President-CEO Jodi Marshall made sure all 33 employees were paid through the end of the contract.
According to Kruppenbacher, school managers started selecting the positions last fall.
He said the selections are based on how “critical” the out-of-state jobs were to the overall school system.
“Our goal is to make sure we are investing back in the state," he said. “This isn’t a reflection on them (the teachers), it’s a reflection on the fact that their jobs can be done back in Florida.”
According to FLVS human resources, six employees have opted to move to Florida, two have retired and the others, roughly 20, have indicated they are not returning.
On Friday, 12 employees, including 11 teachers, were placed on administrative leave, according to school spokesperson Tania Clow.
“None of them were told, 'You are being non-renewed and you can’t have a job,'” Kuppenbacher said. "They were all told (to) let us know by May 15 if you plan on coming back.”
Kruppenbacher said there is not an immediate plan for a “second wave” of relocation mandates.
“There’s no discussions about it right now, but I do know that this will be continued to be reviewed and looked at,” he said.
Kruppenbacher estimated the school would save more than $70,000 in travel expenses alone by bringing the out-of-state teacher and staff positions back to Florida.