Milwaukee layoffs a hard lesson for young teachers

Erin Richards

The insulated cooler sits on the playground bench, untouched.
Beside it, elementary school teacher Alica Magolan waits out her lunch break. She doesn’t have much appetite these days.
On one hand, she’s fortunate: She was recalled after being laid off from her job teaching third-graders at Humboldt Park Elementary School in Bay View. But that uncertainty has been replaced by a new stress: teaching at a north side school with a different culture, to a new grade level, leading a subject in which she has no specialized background.
The learning curve is a hairpin turn. The stomachaches come nightly.
“I know that people are like, ‘Well, you got a call, so you should be happy.’ ” Magolan said. “But I can’t help it that I miss my school.”
At 29, Magolan is one of many young teachers whose lives have changed dramatically since MPS sent layoff notices to 482 educators in June, almost twice the number of positions former superintendent William Andrekopoulos indicated the district would need to cut to balance the budget.
Suddenly jobless, fearing house payments and monthly bills, some on layoff accepted lower-paying educational positions elsewhere. A few landed highly competitive jobs in suburban public schools or other city schools. Some changed careers entirely.