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01-15-04: St. Marys board makes another round of cuts


ST. MARYS — More than 100 St. Marys school district residents and teachers attended a school board meeting Wednesday, some objecting to proposed cuts to the school budget.
Superintendent Paul Blaine submitted the proposed budget reduction plan to the board, which is divided into four tiers of cuts.
Some of the proposed cuts include closing Moulton and Noble elementary schools, staff reductions, cuts in transportation and eliminating all-day, everyday kindergarten.
“Certainly the hardest thing I have ever done as superintendent of this school is this,” Blaine said of the cuts. “It has been challenging both mentally and emotionally. But it has to be done. In November, we had an operating levy (1 percent income tax) defeated for the first time in this district, and that is the primary reason you have this document in front of you right now. Without the defeat, there wouldn’t be any need for these reductions.”
Blaine told residents the first round of cuts already was made this summer and included reductions in staffing, deferral of textbook purchases, restrictions in computer purchases, reductions in bus purchases and cuts in the assistant superintendent’s pay.
Board members at the meeting then approved the second tier of cuts, which included discontinuing driver’s education, getting rid of General Accepted Accounting Practices, reductions in high school computer science classes, eliminating professional leaves for teachers and cutting field trips for the remainder of the school year. The cuts begin Tuesday and will save the school about $158,788, Blaine said.
The third level of cuts proposed includes closing Moulton school, which houses 105 students in grades 1-6. At Moulton, 72 students are from the surrounding area and the other 33 are bused in from the East elementary area.
“Moulton is the most expensive school to operate,” Blaine said, adding the school has had a declining enrollment.
Another tier three cut that drew attention from the crowd was the elimination of the Memorial High School Academy Program, which helps at-risk students earn credits to graduate. The program is offered in the evenings and allows students to maintain full-time jobs.
“I am personally opposed to the cutting of this program because of its success,” guidance counselor Joann Liming said tearfully. “Many students would have dropped out if it weren’t for this program. Many of the students in this class lived alone or lived in cars because that is all they had. Many of them were absent for 40 days the year before. I’m afraid of what will happen to these kids. When you are in financial problems, the last thing you want to cut is something that gives you flexibility.”
Resident Sandy Dove also opposed cutting the program.
“I have a daughter that wouldn’t be a freshman in college right now if it weren’t for this program,” she said. “This is an outstanding program that serves at-risk students.”
New board member Craig Gottschalk said he feels the program is worthy and opposed cutting it. Other board members seemed to agree.
Other cuts proposed in the third round include eliminating art, music and physical education in the elementary schools, reducing teachers’ aides by five, cutting school library personnel and teaching positions, reducing worker’s compensation, cutting summer student workers, reducing school psychologist services, cutting the superintendent’s pay, discontinuing the district newsletter, increasing fees for summer classes and reducing the enrichment program for grades 3-6 and gifted supervision.
If approved by the board, the tier three cuts would go into effect July 1 and would save the school more than $3.4 million.
The tier four cuts would include closing Noble elementary school, no longer providing busing for some students, eliminating all-day, everyday
See ST. Marys, page 4A


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