By LANCE MIHM
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
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
“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
New board member Craig Gottschalk said he feels the program
is worthy and opposed cutting it. Other board members seemed
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
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,
See ST. Marys, page 4A