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home : local news : local news June 25, 2016

3/20/2013 11:41:00 AM
State school funding crisis costs jobs at Hutsonville
The loss of state funding officially cost 12 employees at the school their job after a Reduction In Force meeting at Hutsonville High School Monday night.

The meeting had about 45 people present, listening to the district's plan to patch an expected $414,096 budget hole created primarily by a drop in general state aid.

Superintendent Julie Kraemer said that the projected loss of 20 percent of state funding will force difficult cuts throughout the program and the only saving grace is earlier cuts under previous administrators.

That doesn't make things much easier, she said.

"I now have to look at very good, qualified individuals and say I no longer require your services," she said.

But it's better than not doing anything, she said, and in the future having to say to the entire staff that the school had to close.

Trish Gaddis Gower, a parent from West Union, said that more support from parents is needed. She said she worked to help with band last year, but found it difficult to determine how to volunteer. She asked other parents to participate in supporting the schools.

Residents asked about the possibility of consolidating or joining schools, particularly with Palestine.

Yvonne Newlin mentioned Rockville and Turkey Run schools, which she said brought their administration together but kept their schools. They totalled 13,080 students, she said. Hutsonville and Palestine would have 700 students, she said.

There are 300 students in the school, she said. The two principals and a superintendent seem excessive for a campus that is all under one roof, she said.

There are three executive and three secretary salaries, which seem to be more than needed, said John Cody. That is much higher than he said he saw, when he was working in higher education.

Kraemer said that is necessary as secretaries serve as nurses, aides and social workers.

Guy Rumler, elementary and junior high principal, said the secretaries stop being paid at 3:30 p.m. and work past that point every day.

Most other schools have a separate guidance counselor, Kraemer said, which Hutsonville does not. That shifts those duties to principals, she said, especially the increase in reports required by the state.

Any joining of school districts take years, Kraemer said, and she has advanced the possibility of consolidating with several other districts.

Palestine was the school brought up by the public, including John Cody.

Board president Tina Callaway said that Palestine has been approached, but is not interested at this time.

Callaway and Cody are both running for positions on the board.

Cody said the best way to make the cuts would be to spread the 11 percent reduction across the entire budget.

He mentioned the athletic budget specifically. Changes in that program under the superintendent's plan would potentially save $7,850 a year.

The cuts went across the curriculum. The biggest savings was in non-certified staff for $161,505. That saw the discharge of Debbie Brooks, Rick Catt, Sara Holmes, Holly Norton, Jessica Smith and Nikki Wallace. Pending grant notification and enrollment, up to four of those staff may be rehired.

Certified staff cuts totalling $90,922 saw the loss or reduction of positions for five teachers. Teresa Hoecherl, junior high and high school music teacher, lost her position entirely. That position will be combined with art and the number of bands and choruses will be reduced.

Kristen Noblitt, a grade school teacher, saw her position vanish. Her responsibilities will be absorbed by the remaining grade school teachers.

The family and consumer sciences program will be cut down. Lisa Palmer was formally discharged but may return, possibly with reduced hours. She also provided study hall, which may be combined or eliminated.

Julie Redman, preschool teacher, saw her position vanish. This is a normal process, as the preschool teacher and aide position are dependant on a state grant.

The changes to sports and extracurricular programs include revenue increases and budget cuts.

The current plans include adding an athletic fee, increasing gate fees and cutting coaches down to one per sport. The number of games may be reduced and tournaments that do not pay for themselves may be cut entirely.

Teachers may also see a total reduction of $4,850 in their classroom budgets.

Administration salaries were frozen at the 2012-13 levels.

"...I do know that if all our kids see is contention, they are going to feel unsteady and that's the last thing we need," Gower wrote in a Facebook post after the meeting.

In other business:

• The district is sending out letters asking if parents will enroll their students in half- or full-day kindergarten. This will be used to plan the schedule.

• The school will use the remaining money from a state grant to caulk the windows in the junior high building.

• There will be a shortened summer school this year, using Title 1 funds. The specific dates will set out in the April board meeting.

• Eighth grade students will attend a Reality Fair at Nuttall Middle School. This gives them the opportunity to experience life planning, like buying a house or having children, Guy Rumler said.

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