By Lori Newman, Editor
Sunday, April 10, 2011 | No comments posted.
School boards hear how program cuts will begin with therapy, art, library and more
No programs, activities, personnel or services were safe as Reedsport School District administrators agonized over how to slice approximately 15 percent from its budget.
The process has been going on for several months, as the district looks forward to an estimated $800,000 reduction in state support for the 2011-12 school year. And that might not be all. The necessary cuts may go as high as $940,000, depending on the final budget adopted by the Legislature later this spring.
“This is a work in progress. It is not a final list,” said Supt. Ike Launstein as he handed out a “prioritized budget reduction list” at a meeting last Wednesday of the district school board, the charter school board, the district’s budget committee and a handful of interested residents.
On that list, 26 items were prioritized according to which would have to be cut immediately, and which may end up having to be negotiated with the local teachers’ union, the Association of Reedsport Educators.
The first things to go were speech therapy and psychological services from the South Coast Education Service District. That will save nearly $25,000. Next, cutting one fulltime language arts position and slicing out some math and physical education saves a total of $141,040.
Longtime language arts teacher Janet Boe submitted her resignation last month, and her position will not be filled. The six classes a day that she taught will be picked up by other teachers qualified in that subject, according to Reedsport Community Charter School principal and director Laura Davis.
Peggy Hall, a substitute teacher for language arts classes, was appalled that some core classes would be given to teachers whose primary certification was not in those subjects.
“I’m in shock,” she told the group of 23 people assembled for the meeting. “Language arts and math? That’s where we need it the most. That’s where the test scores are down. ... I think it’s a huge mistake.”
Davis assured her that the school has “other qualified staff who can fill in for one or two classes each. We have some very small class sizes �” classes with only eight or 10 students ... We will be doing a lot of combining.”
Field trips out
Cutting all field trips for both schools out of next year’s budget should save around $10,700.
“We’re really going to have to lean on REEF for this one,” Launstein said, referring to the nonprofit Reedsport Educational Enrichment Foundation. “They fund most of our field trips now.”
The item that drew the most discussion was cuts to the athletics budget of $51,495 for activities coordinators and transportation to competitions at other schools.
Launstein said the district will no longer be able to pay junior high coaches, and will need to lean more heavily on volunteers to keep its athletic programs going.
“I’m suggesting that we go to the community and ask for their help,” he said.
RCCS athletic director James Hixenbaugh said he expects many coaches to resign in light of the cuts. He also is concerned that any volunteer coaches who might step up would not have the necessary training in first aid and CPR, which may endanger some athletes if anything goes wrong.
“When you rely on volunteers, you get parents who are willing to do that because their kids are in that sport. But after that, they won’t be around too long,” Hixenbaugh said.
“Another issue is fundraising. People with fulltime jobs won’t want to be spending a lot of time fundraising,” he added. “We’re getting help now from a lot of different places, like we have some parents who can help us out, but do you really want to get to where you have parents driving kids to events?”
Launstein reminded everyone that the proposed budget cuts are “a work in progress,” especially when it comes to athletics, where outside funding is so crucial.
“After the sports auction (on April 16), we’ll sit down with that money and create a budget,” he said. “They’ll have to make some decisions about how to spend it.”
Hixenbaugh reminded him that the annual sports auction and banquet has traditionally raised between $20,000 and $25,000, “and that’s not enough. It’ll take a lot more than that.”
Launstein agreed that more funds were needed to keep up the quality of Reedsport’s varsity sports programs, and that he intended to keep looking for better funding sources.
“If you start cutting sports programs, some kids will leave. They’ll go to where they can play their sport,” Launstein said.
What about academics?
“But kids will leave if you don’t have good academics, too,” said Peggy Hall, a mother and substitute English teacher.
After listening to nearly 40 minutes of discussion about how to better fund athletic teams, math teacher Susie Chaney agreed with Hall.
“I’m all in favor of sports, but I am very concerned about academics,” she said. “I hope you will spend as much time and passion on making sure our academics are taken care of. The two areas where our scores are so low are math and language arts, and here it sounds like we are going to put Band-aids on it. ... I don’t want our school to be a patchwork of ‘making do.’”
Launstein responded that “We’re all very concerned about keeping our academic quality.”
Charter school board chairman Kristen Zetzsche asked him for more details.
“I’d like more specifics here, Ike. How do you plan to make sure academics stay strong and high quality?” Zetzsche asked.
District school board member Kathy Browning echoed the question and said she was concerned that RCCS was losing “specialists like Janet Boe,” and would be replacing them with teachers who were fairly new to the subjects they’d be asked to teach.
“I hear you loud and clear,” Launstein said. “We will work further on this. ... You know, this is my 29th year as an Oregon superintendent, and this (state budget reduction) is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to go through. It’s just an awful, awful situation.”
More cuts needed?
If the first group of cuts totaling $733,526 isn’t enough, Launstein said, a second group will be looked at. The five items on the second list total $198,226, which would bring the total reductions to $931,752.
“We don’t think it will end up being that high, but we’re prepared if it does,” Launstein said.
The first program to be eliminated in the second round is music. Laying off the music teacher would save $57,586. The remaining .34 FTE teacher for art classes would be next to go, for a savings of $25,191.
Moving sixth-graders to RCCS would save $26,760, and cutting another halftime instructional assistant at the charter school would save $18,689.
If a second round of cuts is required, Launstein said, “We’ll also have to look hard at going to a four-day school week. ... I don’t like the idea much, I don’t believe it’s good for the younger kids, but it would save around $70,000. But we don’t know for sure. ... We’d have to do some more research.”
Some of the details
Other cutbacks and the amounts their elimination will save the district next year include:
- 1.5 FTE (full-time equivilent) custodial positions at Highland Elementary and RCCS �” $78,006.
- Half-time special education teacher �” $45,150.
- .38 FTE nurse position at Highland �” $40,000.
- Half-time library instructional assistant at RCCS �” $19,252.
- .66 FTE art teacher at RCCS �” $48,901.
- Eliminate field trips at RCCS and Highland �” $10,700.
- Half-time instructional assistant at RCCS �” $18,689.
- Half-time secretary at RCCS �” $23,175.
- Half-time school resource officer �” $35,000.
- Cutting extended contracts for teachers at RCCS and Highland �” $29,490.
- Six unpaid furlough days (must be negotiated with teachers union) would save $90,000.
Contact editor Lori Newman at email@example.com, or (541) 271-7474, ext. 203.