Staff cuts discussed in WCSD budget

By JOSH COTTON

jcotton@timesobserver.com

“We all feel the same way. We don’t want to see teachers go, but we’ve got to make the budget.”

Superintendent Dr. William Clark outlined the fundamental budgetary conundrum that challenges the Warren County School District’s middle-level program during a special meeting to discuss the budget held on Thursday night.

Administration proposed two tiers of personnel cuts, one involving five reductions and a second tier adding nine more.

“This is a very difficult position to be in,” said WCSD Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said. “There are ramifications (regardless) of what we do.”

Weber explained that declines in student enrollment have left the district in a position of “not being able to utilize staff in any meaningful capacities.”

While personnel cuts are part of the proposed change to middle level, schedule changes are another aspect of the proposal.

“Any time we manipulate this schedule time is lost somewhere,” Weber said.

The changes in the schedule, which would allow staff reductions, would take language arts and math to 84 minute periods and reduce social studies and science time to traditional 42 minute periods. Currently, those classes are in the realm of 60 minutes.

Weber explained that the tier one cuts would “be retaining social studies and science to teach elective courses throughout the day.”

Board member Jack Werner asked whether the tier one cuts still bring changes to the schedule and program. Weber said that they would but that there is “no way to manipulate the current schedule. No matter what we do there is an impact.”

A schedule change proposed at committee meetings in April would align the high school and middle school schedules. “The high school is something that we are taking a look at,” Weber added. “(We) don’t know where that is going to land. We are going into a heavy year of high school reform.”

One of my issues, we’ve talked about high school reform for the last few years,” said Board member Paul Mangione. “We haven’t done anything about it yet. We are asking the middle level to (match) the high school level when the high school might change.”

Weber argued that the intent is “not trying to conform anything from one to another.”

“Here we are pressed for time with the budget,” Mangione added. “Why didn’t we see this in January or February, instead we are sitting here with a gun to our head to make a decision.”

“It’s not a simple thing that can be done in 24 hours,” Superintendent Dr. William Clark said. “Over a period of time it was chipped away at.”

Matt Madigan, a teacher at Beaty-Warren Middle School, outlined an alternative proposal.

In defense of the current system, he said “our scores are through the roof. We moved to middle level to do those things, give students better opportunities to do well. Teachers are the same. (They are) given more time to take those students to the next level and it worked.”

He said the proposal by administration “would go backward.” His proposal would change the high school model to reflect the middle level model.

Madigan argued that the added class time at the high school level would add more rigor to the courses, help prepare students for college and enhance success on upcoming state-mandated Keystone Exams. “We’re trying to be efficient,” he said of his proposal. “With that model, there are no study halls.” He said the schedule would also effectively accommodate the Warren County Career Center schedules.

Noting that administration did not recommend enough proposed reductions to actually balance the budget, additional possible reductions will be brought to the full board at the regular May meeting next Monday.