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Public Budget Meetings Offer Dialogue, But No Changes On Planned Parkway Cuts

The Parkway School District held the final in a series of four public presentations and feedback-gathering sessions last night and will vote on a proposal to cut $3-4 million from the 2013-14 budget next week.

With the last of its public budget meetings conducted last night, Parkway School District officials said they are ready to bring a proposal to cut $3.3-4.1 million over the next two years before the school board for a vote next week.

The meeting at Parkway Central High School was the final in a series of four presentations at various district high schools to present information on the cuts and gather input from residents on the plan.

School Board President Beth Feldman said the feedback at the meetings has not produced any broad themes or major criticisms, so herself and her fellow board members will likely vote on the package as it has been presented at their meeting next Wednesday.

“I think the issues that have come up seem to be issues that might affect one family or another, but we really haven’t had a big trend of people being drastically upset about this cut or that cut,” she said.

Superintendent Keith Marty said the cuts are designed to be broad-based and will eliminate approximately 40 positions, the majority of which are not teachers and will be accomplished through attrition.

One of the main purposes of the cuts, along with $8 million made last year, is to restore the buffer, or reserve, that the district keeps in its general fund up to the level mandated by board policy. CFO Mark Stockwell said the proposed reductions would allow that to happen over the next five years.

The district presented a summary of the proposal at Thursday’s meeting (a more detailed explanation can be found here), highlights include:

  • Saving $1.2-$1.4 million by reducing the approximately 18 district administrator and departmental support staff positions.
  • Reduce program budgets and school budgets by 5 percent where possible and the budget for textbooks.
  • Restructuring summer school by shortening the length of the program.
  • Eliminating 3 middle school math facilitator positions for a savings of $150,000-200,000; 3 high school staff secretary positions (one per every 300 students instead of one per every 250) and three to five positions within district-level departments for $170,000-225,000; and reducing 3 positions per high school for $650,000-850,000.
  • Saving $100,000-$150,000 by maintaining the enrollment level of the Voluntary Student Transfer program and increasing rental fees for building and athletic field usage.

Cuts Discussed

After the presentation, the meeting was opened for a “roundtable session” for group discussion. Craig Green, a parent of two students at Green Trails Elementary, said he didn’t quite understand how all of this would translate.

“If you eliminate positions, that means some services are going to go away, some programs are going to get cut back, and it’s hard for me to know if you eliminate 18 positions what does that actually mean?” he said.

CFO Mark Stockwell said that they are designed to not be noticed by the students and instead will be felt more keenly by the adults, who will shoulder more responsibilities as people in support positions, teachers or other staff leave and are not replaced.

District administrators gave several examples. In one case, there are a few schools whose number of assistant principals exceeds the ideal ration, so they don’t need to be replaced. It could also mean letting go of a permanent sub, thanks to a new system that helps find and place temporary substitute teachers more quickly.  

At the high school level, the cuts are aimed at what are considered extra flexible “full-time equivalent” positions. There are 11 of these at each school with various duties, ranging from a part-time coordinator in the guidance office to a classroom teacher, so it will be up to the individual building administrators to decide on specifics.

It could also mean increasing class sizes slightly at the high schools. Assistant Superintendent Desi Kirchofer said, for example, there might be 15 Algebra I sections with 20 students each that can be reduced to 14 sections with 21-22 students each. On average, the proposed cuts are expected to up the student-to-teacher ratio from 13.5 to 13.9.

“I think it’s going to be people having to do more with less,” said Communications Director Paul Tandy. “There are some departments where we have identified some retirements where we could shift some responsibilities.”

The elimination of the middle school math facilitators concerned Jeanne Diamond, who has two children at Parkway Central High School.

“It seems like an area that we would want to be increasing,” she said, noting the increased importance of math and science education.

However, at this point, it is unlikely that anything will be altered. Green asked the officials directly if anything they had heard over the course of the four meetings had changed their proposal.

“No. There haven’t been any strong themes on any of the proposals,” Tandy said, adding that it was unlike last year were a large amount of concern over the number of reductions in elementary-level facilitators caused the total number cut to be reduced.  

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