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More cuts may be in store for Pickerington
Despite a decision from the Pickerington Board of Education to cut $13 million to balance next school year’s budget, administrators say they anticipate further cuts and a need for a levy later this year.
The cuts, they say, offset an expected 13-percent reduction in state funding.
“In these challenging economic times, answering how to stay academically and globally competitive with limited resources seems overwhelming,” Superintendent Karen Mantia said. “We are required to balance the budget.”
Cuts or changes will be made to the district’s transportation services, administrative personnel, licensed and certified personnel, licensed and certified employees in all grade levels and classified personnel.
With as many as 100 positions being eliminated, the cuts are being felt deeply throughout the community.
Cuts already announced include seven administrative positions, 15-1/2 licensed personnel including four nursing positions, 52 teaching positions at the K-6 level, 35 teaching positions in the 7-11 grades and elimination of the D.A.R.E. Program for elementary students.
“Kids need good teachers, good resources and good programs,” said Andy Russ, spokesman of Pickerington Patriots Political Action Committee. “We do not argue that fact. Instead of asking us for more money, they should do what other businesses have done and postpone merit and step increase as well as cut expenses.”
Pickerington Patriots, a grass roots independent political action committee devoted to opposing legislation and political candidates that do not align with core values as determined by the group, has moved into full campaign mode since news of the district considering a property tax levy spread.
At the end of January, the school board voted not to place a levy on the May ballot. However, board members have not ruled out placing a levy on the August ballot when some board members say it is better timing.
Mantia say the reductions are complicated with the restructuring efforts being made to streamline the education process.
For example, she says even though staffing reductions are planned, the district plans to bring back some of those positions by using them in other areas.
The hardest hit programs cut were art, music, physical education, media and technology, with 39 positions cut at the K-6 level.
Changes in programming, however, are expected to bring back 20 of those positions with a team of teachers traveling to different buildings, Mantia said.
With adjustments in the arts, the district is moving to restructure staffing for its new Global Learning Hub/Infusion Model that will be announced during the Feb. 14 board meeting. The new delivery model will bring back 20 of the 39 arts positions reduced in the layoffs, she said.
“It’s (the current method) a very insufficient way to deliver services,” Mantia said.
Beginning next school year, bus service for kindergarten students living within a two-mile radius of their schools will be eliminated, as will all district-paid field trips. The district’s DARE program, which educates elementary and middle school students about the dangers of drug addiction, also will be eliminated.
School hours will change to more efficiently coordinate busing and class time, Mantia said.
Currently, elementary classes are held from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., middle school classes take place from 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m., junior high is in session from 7:15 a.m. to 1:55 p.m., and high school classes are held from 7:22 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.
Hours starting with the 2011-2012 school year will be reduced by roughly 45 minutes for all levels. High school students will attend from 7:20 a.m. to 1:40 p.m., while junior high students will be in school from 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., middle-schoolers from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and elementary students from 9:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
Restructuring the school day will extend 7-12 level classes from 40 minutes to 50 minutes allowing teachers to spend more time on individual topics, Mantia said.
While athletics did not take a direct hit in this current round of cuts, district officials said as much as $1 million in programming reductions could be later announced once more decisions are finalized.
The overall cuts made so far are likely to be permanent, even if a levy is passed in the future, Mantia said.
“Based on the needs we know we have today, our intention would not be to bring any of these positions back,” she said.
Additional cuts are possible should the state reduce funding by as much as 20 percent. The district has plans to make an additional $2.9 million in reductions should the numbers change when the state budget is released later this Spring, Mantia said.
District votes against a May levy
After intensive discussion and debate, the Pickerington School Board decided against placing a levy on the May ballot during the Jan. 31 special board meeting.
Although the board voted 3-2 for placing the levy on the ballot, there is a requirement of a super majority 4-1 vote to adopt the resolution. Board members voting against the measure were Cathy Olshefski and board president Lisa Reade.
“This doesn't mean that the board is divided,” board member Lee Gray said. “We are on the same page. We agree that we must pass a levy. We just disagree on timing.”
Andy Russ of Pickerington Patriots said it doesn’t matter when a levy goes on the ballot.
“Taxpayers cannot support the schools they want to run,” he said. “We just don’t have it. In this economic turmoil, many taxpayers are not in a position to incur more taxes.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich is scheduled to release the state biennium budget in March. District officials said the delay gives the board and the district the opportunity to have more definitive information regarding funding from the state, local revenues, expenditures and contract negotiations.
“We need to evaluate all the factors we have at our disposal,” Reade said. “The latest information from the governor’s office is that they want the reductions to be equitable across districts.”
Olshefski said there is no correct answer.
“We have to make a decision based on a set of assumptions – some known and others unknown,” she said.
|On February 9, 2011 Rich said:
I'm glad to see an article that shows the other side of school funding. Our education system is set up in a crazy way. The largest portion of the budget goes to staffing, and the payment model for teachers is very poor. This system rewards teachers for years of service, not performance. We all know that there are great teachers and also very bad ones. Unfortunately, the system doesn't distinguish between great and bad. To fix school funding, you first have to change the pay model to one in which the best teachers are compensated well while the worst teachers either improve their performance or they find a new profession. I've looked at the salaries in Pickerington, and I've noticed that there are many below average teachers making at or near the top of the pay scale. These salaries are equivalent to $120,000 per year when annualized (teachers only work about 3/4 of the weeks in a year compared to a typical corporate employee).
If Pickerington wants to really improve the quality of education, they don't need more money from the taxpayers. The money is already there, being used unwisely to pay exorbitant salaries for poor teachers. Change the pay model, pay good teachers good salaries, and manage out poor teachers. Costs will go down, and the school will actually do a better job of teaching our kids.
|On February 8, 2011 Sherm said:
Picktown's teachers are making more money and receiving more financial benefits than we can afford to pay. The average member of the Pickerington teacher's union makes $67,000/year plus benefits and pays only $75 per month for family health insurance coverage; the average Picktown citizen earns $33,000 annually and pays $400 per month for family health insurance. (See ionplsd.com for details)
Public employee unions are a bad idea -- socialism is great, until you run out of other people's money.
|On February 6, 2011 Kelly said:
Thank you for a fair and balanced summary of the problems that we face here in Pickerington, as taxpayers and with the education of our students. My family has resided here for 16 years. It is a good community in which to live. However, the problems we face with our schools mirror the same problems with the federal government. The system is broken. We can't just keep throwing money into the wind or put a bandaid on the issues. Levy's do not solve the root of the financial burdens,just as the stimulus did not solve the root of our current economic crisis. It's time we all wake up, act like adults and be determined to look beyond that as our only resource. It's time to stop punishing the students and the taxpayer for a problem that they did not cause. It's time for honest leadership and accountability with our school board and our educational system in Ohio.
|On February 6, 2011 said:
Thanks for including the other side Kim. We know this about our kids. It's a shame the board and Mantia don't see it that way and just want to continue to tax us and throw money at the problem. It's about the Pickerington Teacher's Union - keep digging and you will see this for what it is...
|On February 6, 2011 Larry said:
Fisrt of all thanks to Ms Lunsford for at least giving a forum for those with differing views. In November 2010 the electorate voted no on the levy request and they are to vote again in May 2011 on a levy request which is over 30% higher than the one that was defeated. As evidenced by the districts own projected $2 million deficit in 2014 the right-sizing that needs to take place has not been completed. If the mismanagement of our school finances continues by ignoring the problem of overspending on wages/benefits and imposing still more taxes on the residents, the Pickerington community will no longer be an attractive place to live. Having a less attractive community will result in lower property values. Only a no vote will ultimately promote more fiscal responsibility which in turn will lead to better, more effective schools and a better community. It's not all about raising taxes as the Hamilton Local School District has successfully demonstrated and it is now time for Pickerington to realize that and come aboard as well.
|On February 6, 2011 John said:
This has gotten out of hand. It must stop
for the sake of the children.
I cannot believe how many perpetuate the
false premise that money and quality of
education are related. There is a mountain
of data that proves that premise utterly false.
If that were true then this would not be true:
That is just one example. There are a ton of others.
Do your homework and stop listening to sheer propaganda.
We don't have a revenue problem. We have
a spending problem.
|On February 4, 2011 Robin said:
I think it is disrespectful that the PLSD is even considering asking for another levy in 2011. The voters said no to more money. What we have is a spending problem not an income problem. The cost per hour for school staff is out of proportion to the real word. It makes no sense to compare Pickerington teachers� wages to other districts when the real problem is lack of competition and accountability. How about getting rid of the stranglehold the PEA has on the taxpayers and allow an open competition for teaching positions? Everyone else has to compete in the real world so why not the PLSD? Maybe some, reasonably priced, new teachers are needed. I'll bet if there was no union the PLSD could hire all day among qualified candidates at wages dictated by supply and demand, not the elitist system the teachers' union foster.
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