Christina cuts 77 ed­u­ca­tor po­si­tions

District fac­ing re­duc­tion in state fund­ing

Newark Post - - Front Page - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­

In an at­tempt to deal with the dra­matic re­duc­tion in state fund­ing pro­posed by Gov. John Car­ney, the Christina School Board has cut 77 aca­demic po­si­tions from district schools.

The de­ci­sion passed 4 to 2 on May 10, with Har­rie Ellen Min­nehan and John Young as the op­pos­ing votes.

If the state leg­is­la­ture ap­proves Car­ney’s pro­posal at the end of June, Christina will lose ap­prox­i­mately $6 mil­lion but will have a one-time chance to re­coup up to $4 mil­lion by rais­ing taxes with­out a ref­er­en­dum. How­ever, due to the tim­ing, Christina had to plan for the worst-case sce­nario and find ways to trim $6 mil­lion out of its bud­get by

May 15, the district’s dead­line to in­form em­ploy­ees they are be­ing laid off.

Board mem­bers orig­i­nally con­sid­ered cut­ting ele­men­tary and sec­ondary mu­sic classes, dis­con­tin­u­ing the Montes­sori pro­gram and shut­ter­ing the Sarah Pyle Academy to come up with the money, but ul­ti­mately de­cided against it on May 4 af­ter stu­dents, par­ents and teach­ers begged them not to.

As a re­sult, 77 aca­demic po­si­tions were on the chop­ping block some of which will be elim­i­nated through re­tire­ment and non-re­newals, while oth­ers will be laid off.

The re­duc­tions are ex­pected to save the district $1,504,018, ac­cord­ing to Bob Sil­ber, chief fi­nan­cial officer, who re­ferred to the pro­posal as a “very un­for­tu­nate as­sign­ment” for the board.

Ariel Hardy, a teacher at Downes Ele­men­tary School, was up­set that the district could po­ten­tially lose $6 mil­lion.

“That’s a hell of a hit to education when we’re al­ready limp­ing,” she said.

In­stead of cut­ting teach­ers, she sug­gested the board cut more from the cen­tral of­fice and re­duce the amount of com­puter, cell­phone, ve­hi­cle and gas al­lowances given to district of­fi­cials.

Board mem­ber Fred Po­laski told Sil­ber he just wants to do what’s best for the stu­dents in the district.

“There’s a dis­con­nect, un­for­tu­nately, be­tween what’s in the best in­ter­est of stu­dents and what’s fis­cally re­spon­si­ble,” Sil­ber said.

“We sit here and say we have to do the right thing, but the right thing is not mak­ing larger class sizes for the chil­dren and we know that,” replied board mem­ber Shirley Sutton-Saf­fer. But Sil­ber dis­agreed. “The off­set to that is that you’re go­ing to have a district that does not have the fis­cal where­withal to sur­vive,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to cut­ting 77 ed­u­ca­tors, the school board also cut $168,500 from pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, re­duced Ex­tra Pay for Ex­tra Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (EPER) by $200,000 and agreed not to fill 29 va­cant non-aca­demic and aca­demic po­si­tions, which trans­lates to a sav­ings of $1,829,081.

The district will also re­duce cen­tral of­fice con­tracted ser­vices by 10 per­cent – $660,884 – and school bud­gets by $998,390, and elim­i­nate the ath­letic, mu­sic and art funds, which equal $500,000 to­tal.

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