88 Fort Knox employees receive separation letters

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Officials continue trying to place terminated staff

By Gina Clear

About one-third of Fort Knox Community Schools’ employees received letters Monday notifying them of a change in their employment with the school system effective June 28.

Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools division chief for human resources Bryan Weekley said 100 letters were sent to affected employees.

Of the 100, 88 employees were separated — or laid off — he said. Of those, 54 were professionals, including certified teachers and counselors, and 34 were support staff, including custodians, teacher’s aides and administrative and cafeteria staff.

Seven employees within the school system were assigned, four were offered part-time positions and one support staff member was moved to an on-call or substitute status. Another temporary teacher’s position was terminated.

The decisions were based on three qualifiers, Weekley said. DDESS first considered seniority, then veteran’s preference and, finally, what type of position the employee was filling.

“The way we run our reduction in force is identical to the federal government,” he said.

The separations became necessary after an 800-student decrease in enrollment because of the inactivation of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The inactivation resulted in the closure of four schools — Kingsolver, Mudge and Pierce elementary schools and Walker Intermediate School – at the end of the school year.

DDESS retained 205 employees to staff the four remaining Fort Knox schools – VanVoorhis Elementary School, which will house preschool through fifth grades; MacDonald Intermediate School, which will house first through fifth grades; Scott Middle School and Fort Knox High School.

Although multiple school districts were impacted by the reduction in force and had to lose a handful of employees, only Fort Knox Community Schools was forced to close schools and separate more than 100 employees. In all, Fort Knox lost 124 positions.

“We didn’t have this magnitude in other installations,” Weekley said.

He said prior to the letter distribution, Leo Sanchez, chief of special projects and reduction in force, and his staff took several measures to reduce the impact on employees. 

To save as many positions as possible, Weekley said 132 voluntary separation incentives were offered to employees who were past retirement age or near retirement. Of those offers, 35 were accepted. He also said temporary employees were not kept and other permanent employees were moved to known vacancies in the school system.

“Obviously, we can’t save all of the employees,” he said.

The next step, Weekley said, is to see if any of the separated employees are willing to relocate to another military installation to fill vacancies in those school systems.

“Folks at Fort Knox who are more mobile and can move, their chances for employment is greater,” he said. “The reality for some is they’re simply not mobile.”

For those who can’t relocate, Weekley, Sanchez and others are coming to Fort Knox to personally counsel separated employees on their eligibility for unemployment benefits and help them apply for placement assistance.

“When you have 100 people you have to talk to, it’s better to do it in person,” he said. “The idea is to keep folks going until they are able to find another job.”

Weekley said although some separated employees are not eligible for automatic selection, they will be competitive for selection for other federal jobs because of experience gained at Fort Knox.

With the changing personnel at a military installation, Weekley said DDESS staff will continue attempting to place separated employees for two years.

“Being in a military community, the military sponsor could get an order and an employee may have to leave,” he said. “We will continue to try to place folks until well after the effective date. Our placement assistance is really, really strong.”

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.