Reductions in aides to save district $50,000

This article submitted by Micheal Jacobson on 5/2/01.

The school cuts to its general fund budget for 2001-02, finalized in February, claimed three instructional assistant jobs in the elementary school for the upcoming school year.

At their meeting on Tuesday, April 24, the school board approved a plan to reshuffle the elementary school's instructional assistants.

This year, the elementary school has 19 instructional assistants, including three who work part time. The plan for next year reduces the number to 16, including two part time, and reduces all Title 1 assistants from 6.25 hours per day to five hours per day.

The result of the plan means a savings of more than $50,000 to the school's general fund. The board approved a reduction of $33,160 in the February cuts. Superintendent Howard Caldwell urged the board to take this opportunity to help the district's finances by reducing expenditures more than originally planned. "The more we can gain now the better we'll be in the long run," he said, "because any time you don't do it, (the deficit) accumulates."

Six board members approved the plan: Dan Andersen, Maurice Dosdall, Pat Flanders, Deb Glenz, Gretchen O'Fallon, and Fern Roberg.

Board member Bob See voted against the cuts, feeling the proposal was brought to the board with no chance to examine it or its consequences. He acknowledged the district's need to cut costs and use employees efficiently, but felt the effects of these cuts on the students they help hadn't been determined yet.

See's concerns about the effects of the cuts were shared by the other members of the board. Not only will students lose contact time with the reduction, but teachers will lose assistance on logistical things like correcting papers and making copies.

Flanders, the board chairman, expressed frustration with the state funding, which is forcing the school to cut wonderful programs in the name of efficiency.

Caldwell pointed out that the reductions in the numbers of sections mean less teaching time for physical education, music, and library, so these teachers will have time to do their prep. In the past, aides were needed to help them gain prep time.

At one time, the district's instructional aide budget was self-sufficient, said Caldwell. Revenue from special education and Title I covered the district's costs. Many districts still operate these funds this way.

"As increased costs incurred," Caldwell explained, "we simply took some general fund dollars and subsidized these programs.".

In 2000-01, however, the local district will contribute $57,000 from its general fund to cover the costs. The approved plan will cut the district's contribution to the instructional aides to less than $5,000 for the upcoming school year.

Elementary principal Todd Burlingame, who devised the cuts with Caldwell, offered the new jobs on a basis of seniority to the instructional aide staff.

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