D-49 board poised to cut salaries, jobs at Wednesday meeting

April 26, 2011

The Falcon School District 49 board is poised to reduce salaries and benefits, cut teaching jobs and reinstate the Transportation Department with no budget other than the money necessary to bus special education students.

Recommendations encompassing those actions are on the agenda for a special board meeting at 6 p.m. today at Falcon High School.

Although district spokeswoman Stephanie Wurtz Meredith declined Tuesday to divulge details of a new staffing plan, items attached to the agenda indicate that newly appointed Chief Education Officer Becky Carter has crafted a plan and will ask the board to approve “the amount of teachers salaries and benefits to be reduced by virtue of adoption of the 2011/12 Staffing Plan provided by the CEO and Innovation Leaders.”

Carter could not be reached Tuesday.

Proposed reductions in staff in every department came out of meetings with innovation leaders/assistant superintendents, principals and others in each zone, according to the action item overview in the school board packet posted on D-49’s website this week.

“This action is intended to minimize impacts to the classroom and to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the District as it adjusts to further reductions in Per Pupil Funding,” according to the board packet.

The salary and personnel cuts are allowed because of the district’s declaration on April 14 of a financial emergency, called a “fiscal exigency.” After the chief education officer gives her recommendations for cuts to the board, written notices will be given to each teacher whose contract might be considered for cancellation.

Student transportation for next year was the reason today’s special meeting was called, but at the end of the regular board meeting earlier in April board members said a vote on that issue was unlikely.

Several board members expressed concerns and raised questions about the proposals from three companies and the transportation department. At one point, board President Dave Martin said revisiting the proposals and figuring out details may need to continue into next year.

However, according to the online agenda, the board is expected to vote tonight on the district Transportation Department’s proposal.

At the April 14 meeting, D-49 transportation Director Cindy Hardin recommended instituting a dollar-a-ride fee that she said would make the department self-supporting in the second year. The plan also calls for a blend of circuit and corridor busing, which would include putting students of all ages on the same bus.

Hardin estimated the first year costs at $97,000, mostly to cover costs tied to setting up a fee structure. The department’s budget was about $3.5 million this year, and the board voted in January to eliminate the department for next school year to reduce costs. Special education busing, required by law, would remain.

According to the school board packet posted online, Hardin’s statement that transportation could be provided to general education students at no cost to the district spurred the board to consider “testing the plan in the interests of the affected students.”

The recommendation posted with the agenda contains no money other than that needed to cover special education busing.

Contact the writer at 636-0162.

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