Archive for Tuesday, March 11, 2003

More staff layoffs in district’s plan

March 11, 2003

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There will be dozens of teacher layoffs and a maximum of $4.5 million in program cuts to balance next year's budget in the Lawrence public school district.

"Yes, there will be nonrenewals," Mary Rodriguez, the district's director of human resources, said Monday after the school board made progress in shaping a 2003-2004 spending plan.

She's not sure of the precise total, but it could be a repeat of last year when 65 certified teachers received pink slips. About 35 of those teachers were eventually hired back, but to different jobs left open by resignations or retirements.

After a budget study session, the board reluctantly pushed ahead with a plan to outline precisely how it would find $4.5 million in savings if government education funding declined and district costs increased as expected.

It means people will lose jobs and district programs -- everything from Japanese courses to cheerleading -- will pay a price.

"We've got significant money to cut," Supt. Randy Weseman told the board and the district's budget committee. "There is no way around this thing. This is going to be hard. People are going to work harder, and morale is going to suffer."

A wild-card issue in the budget debate is the possibility of capturing more than $1 million in savings annually by closing East Heights and Centennial schools this year along with Riverside School.

The opportunity to save jobs and programs by shelving the three schools appears tempting to a majority on the board.

"We can close these schools, consolidate them, whether the bond passes or not," said Scott Morgan, the board's president.




On April 1, voters will either accept or reject the board's proposed $59 million bond for school construction and renovation. Under that bond plan, New York and Cordley schools would be expanded to accommodate more elementary students when East Heights and Centennial are closed.

The board voted to close Riverside in May.

School board members are motivated to prepare a list of potential spending cuts because the state's financial crisis will likely result in a reduction in per-pupil aid to districts. That is expected at the same time the district's operating expenses for insurance and salaries will increase.

The board analyzed a list of 125 possible cuts presented by the district's budget committee. The 20-member committee and the school board ranked all the options. In both, central administration and sports programs make up about two-thirds of the highest priority cuts.

No formal votes were taken by the board, but cuts on the front end of the hit list include: elimination of the district director of assessments, $75,000; reducing the scope of sixth-grade band and orchestra, $110,000; dropping high school diving and golf and junior high cheerleading and tennis, $44,000; and deleting American Sign Language courses in high school, $89,000.

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