In an unusual 4-3 split, Clay Community Schools Board voted last night to cancel non-permanent teacher contracts.
Terry Barr, Len Fischer, Ted Jackson and wild card Steve Grigsby won the decision over Bob Atkinson, Jon Hull and Joe Thomas.
Because of the uncertainty of financial aid from federal and state governments, and the budget crunch already at the local level with late tax reassessment money, the board decided to do everything possible to alleviate the problem. Superintendent Thomas Rohr recommended the cancellation of non-permanent teacher contracts.
Barr said she thought all aspects of education will suffer if the board didn't take the recommended action that night.
"Last year, the school corporation had a year-end cash balance of $3.2 million.
At the end of this year (Dec. 31, 2003), we'll have a cash balance of only $1 million and next year we're looking at a negative cash balance of $1.6 million. If we don't do this tonight, we're tying our hands for any possible future return of those teachers," Fischer said.
Thomas said the board wanted all-day kindergarten and told principals to improve reading scores.
"I cannot support taking out teachers that have shown a three-year improvement in reading scores," he said.
Jackson said he was all for keeping the reading teachers and having all-day kindergarten.
"But," he asked, "what other alternative do we have?".
Rohr said he would suggest to the board in May options it may choose to eliminate or reduce in order to keep those positions. However, since teacher contracts call for a deadline for notification for RIF (reduction in force), which was last night, a decision had to be made so those teachers could be told whether or not they would have a job with the school corporation.
Grigsby went down the list of options discussed at a special budget working session conducted April 3. (See sidebar for the list.)
"If we cut a little here and a little there, it can make all the difference. We need to do all we can to reduce costs," Grigsby said, "I know that cuts have to be made and it's not easy for anyone of us sitting behind this table to make the tough cuts because we see those faces behind every one of those positions."
RIF teachers include secondary teachers Matt Renn, Tracy Miller, Cathy Sponser and Anne Gasway. RIF elementary teachers are Carrie Chiado, Lisa Coughanowr, Kim Edwards, Sharla Cargaumo, Rae Anne Howald, Monica Wallace, April Hash-Lovett and Amanda Sebastian.
The lowest senior certified staff members on the seniority list were laid off, moving two secondary teachers with elementary licenses into positions at the elementary level.
Rohr said four of the teachers are class reduction teachers funded by a federal grant to lower the number of students in given classes. He gave three possible scenarios for the state budget. Governor Frank O'Bannon's version calls for a 0 percent increase. The House plan is similar to the existing school funding formula of a guaranteed minimum increase of 1.75 percent. The Senate version is completely different from anything suggested before. It calls for money to follow students, meaning growing schools will receive more money and smaller schools will receive less. It allows $4,500 per student with five complexity factors built in to the plan.
He said there is no guarantee, but a reasonable expectation, that some or all of the teachers may be hired back by the end of the school year depending on what happens with the federal and state budgets. The General Assembly announced work will not be completed and fund amounts disclosed until May 24.
Editor's note: See tomorrow's edtion of The Times for more school board business.