Parkway School District, one of the largest in the area, moved to cut up to $9.63 million over the next two years in spending, with officials blaming the depressed economy for lower revenue.
"Districts in other areas were doing this three and four years ago," Mark Stockwell, chief financial officer for Parkway, said. The total annual budget is about $221 million.
After parents questioned the proposed cuts in reading and math specialists, and staff questioned cuts in elementary school office staff, the board agreed to two put-backs before moving ahead with a 6-0 vote in favor of cuts Wednesday night.
The typically light crowd at regular school board meetings in Parkway Central Middle School, was augmented Wednesday night by scores of school principals, parents and students—and others unidentified, during the budget talks.
Their presence may have served to hold the board's feet-to-the-fire on the two funding put-backs, since after the vote nearly everyone fled the meeting but none Patch spoke to was willing to identify him- or herself by name in the parking lot.
April 15 is the deadline for determining whether and which school staff would be layed off. Each school principal decides. Officials said no professional staff were impacted—apparently meaning classroom teachers.
CFO Stockwell said six math specialists jobs would be put back in the budget after parents complained over the past month, for a total of 18 in the district. The first proposal cut the number from 23 specialists to 12. Reading specialists would lose the equivalent of 2.5 jobs.
Chesterfield parent Mollie Gulino, a mother of two elementary school-age children, told the school board she had two petitions circulating for a total of 250 signatures so far, demanding the district rethink the cuts on specialists.
"This cannot possibly succeed in the real world," Gulino said about the cuts. She said children need the one-on-one experience specialists provide, and time to develop at their own pace.
While adding back six specialists, the district maintained the plan that specialists would float among schools in the district, working wherever there was need. No longer would there be one specialist-one school arrangements.
Officials emphasized this was more efficient use of resources, and starts July 1.
The second sticking point in the spending cuts was a reduction of office staff at elementary schools by centralizing registration. While centralization through a computer system was practical, schools said their on-site registrar did other clerical duties that were vital to the school.
So the district promised three office workers per elementary school—most on nine and 11-month contracts, but none would be registrar—that will still be centralized, for efficiency officials said.
Officials emphasized the spending cuts were to reduce drawing down district reserves—the savings account.
"It’s important to look internally, first, look at ourselves first," officials said, for ways of saving money, before going out to ask for a tax hike or bond issue.
Rockwood School District, which has Marquette High School in Chesterfield, is going to the voters this year, asking for a $43.2 million bond issue.
For other information about Parkway district go to the website.