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School plans to cut 40 jobs

February 9, 2011
Kylie Saari — Staff Writer

FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area Schools administrators recommended budget cuts to the school board Tuesday night that would mean the loss of 40 jobs, in addition to program cuts.

The district is seeking to eliminate $1.5 million from its general fund for 2011-2012 in an attempt to avoid going into statutory operating debt next year. Statutory operating debt means the district would be put under strict oversight by the state, which could dictate how and where cuts need to be made, a situation Superintendent Joe Brown does not want to see.

"I will tell you by personal experience that this is not a good place to be," he wrote in a message to district staff. "I will not allow our school district to go into (statutory operating debt)."

Brown said next year's budget only increased 1.5 percent, but with an increase in operating expenses and the loss of 50 students, the district is facing dire times.

The school board met with administrators and other staff during a Tuesday work session designed to describe details of the proposed cuts and request ideas from those present on ways other ways jobs can be saved.

Possible cuts include:

o Not replacing the high school assistant principal, the athletic director, the Early Childhood Family Education director and the ECFE administrative assistant.

o At the elementary school, 6.5 positions. This would include several grades losing one section, and the loss of an art teacher.

o Two positions in the title and compensatory area.

o Almost six full-time positions at the high school.

o Three media technicians, 15 special education para-professionals, two other special ed positions, a social worker, some building and grounds personnel, and shifting administrative assistant positions.

The plan also includes removing seventh- and eighth-grade sports from district budgets; and cutting tournaments for basketball, wrestling and volleyball.

Add in a decrease in supply budgets and the district has saved $1.4 million, still short of the goal.

In addition to budget cuts, administrators presented ideas for boosting revenue. These include increasing athletic fees by $20 per sport, and implementing a plan to reduce the time students spend retaking failed classes.

Brown says several other areas represent possible income, including funding for Q-comp, which could be available if the state approves the district's application; retirement savings from teachers who may choose to retire; a potential operating referendum; a salary freeze proposed by the state Senate; and the possibility of shared administration with surrounding school districts.

The cuts don't just affect staff, but programming as well.

Program reductions at the high school include: a phase out of German as a foreign language option, fewer art classes, fewer family and consumer science classes, and fewer business classes. Gym class sizes would increase to 35-40 students, and core classes - math, English, science - would see increases as well.

"Electives will certainly be limited," said Principal Lynn Manske.

Reductions at the elementary school would mean higher class sizes throughout, although still within ranges set by the school board, and less time spent in "specials" - art, gym and music.

"All kids would have specials, but they will lose time," said Principal Jim Davison, referring to a plan to rotate students through the specials - gym twice per week, music twice per week and art once per week.

"When you are facing Draconian cuts, you have to look at everything," he said.

Brown said he asked for suggestions from the community for ways to cut the budget and received two responses, one from a staff member and one from a parent.

Teachers and staff whose jobs are included in the staff reductions were notified late last week. Since that time, Brown has received 40 emails regarding cuts.

Administration will continue to considering ideas from the community.

"The proposal will change before final action is taken in March," Brown said. "There is not one person being reduced that we wanted to lose."



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