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New Carnegie Science Center layoffs spread across programs

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Six months after budget cuts resulted in about 20 layoffs at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Science Center has laid off another half-dozen workers.

Sources close to the museum say that between June 27 and June 30, six full-time employees in the center's education department were let go. That's more than the three full-timers and one part-timer who lost their jobs in January as part of a round of layoffs intended to save the Carnegie Museums $4 million this year. At that time the Science Center also chose to leave five vacant positions unfilled.

Reached by phone, Carnegie Museums spokesperson Betsy Momich, saying that the Museums do not comment on staffing matters, refused to confirm the new layoffs. But sources say those laid off include: Torey Verts, an eight-year Science Center employee and director of Rangos Omnimax Theater; Jeff Jordan, who managed the Works Theater, the Kitchen Theater and the Science Center Stage; William Miller, a program developer for live science demonstrations; Bob Hettrick, whose duties included giving tours on the USS Requin submarine exhibit; Melissa Althoffer, who coordinated children's overnight stays at the center; and presenter Kurt Nelson. Staff were told that the laid-off workers' duties would be reassigned to remaining staff.

Along with the Museums' budget troubles -- keyed by a huge decline in investment-portfolio income in recent years -- the Museums had in May terminated its contract with architect Jean Nouvel for an expansion of the Center, citing differences between the project's budget and its estimated cost. Still, reached by phone, ex-Science Center employees among the six -- who declined to be quoted directly -- said that the job cuts came as a surprise.

The Science Center has about 380 employees, but only about a hundred of them are full-time. Art Lassman, a part-time presenter at the Center since it opened in 1991, says the cuts will sting. "Obviously, people were shocked, and I can't help but think their morale has been crushed," says Lassman, speaking of remaining employees. "It can't help but affect what goes on in the building," he adds. "We'll get along, but it won't be easy."

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