Christina cuts 77 educator positions
District facing reduction in state funding
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.