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04-14-04 Parkway board drastically cuts staff to save funds

By Timothy Cox
tcox@dailystandard.com

WILLSHIRE — Parkway Local Schools board of education members approved $487,000 in staff reductions to try to bring its deficit budget into line.
   Superintendent Doug Karst called Tuesday’s meeting “the toughest board meeting I’ve ever had,” as several staff members were let go, including a long-time teacher.
   Another round of cuts aimed at trimming another $95,000 from the budget is likely at the next board meeting. Those staff reductions are expected to focus on administrative jobs and assistant coaching positions.
   The school board’s hand was virtually forced into making the staff reductions to bring the budget into line, Karst said. Without the cuts, the district would be facing a deficit in excess of $900,000 next school year. The current budget shows a $400,000 deficit.
   “We are currently in a pattern of deficit spending and we anticipated that getting much worse if we did not take some action,” Karst said. “We hate to keep eating into our carryover balance.”
   Board members agreed to cut the elementary school staff by three positions, including a second-grade teaching post, a third-grade teaching job and a physical education position. Teachers Rebecca Covey, Amber Pohlman and Ashleigh Clay are the teachers whose contracts were suspended to eliminate those jobs.
   At the high school level, 23-year veteran Bill Wynk lost his job to reduce the business teaching staff. Other cuts included a music position that was held by Keith Bowers and a half-time math position held by Ann Vian. Board members also agreed not to fill an industrial arts post and a language arts job that are both vacant due to pending retirements.
   All of the staff reductions were unanimously approved except for Wynk’s dismissal. Board members Jeff Long and Betty DuBry voted against that issue, with the other three members voting in favor.
   The board also agreed to change its agreement with the Mercer County Educational Service Center to reduce the district’s gifted program from full-time to half-time.
   Board members and the administration had discussed the cuts at a special meeting held Monday in executive session. All of the reductions were based on seniority within a given area of teaching certification.
   To show the staff reductions were budget-related and not because of poor performance, teachers who were up for new contracts were given new deals, only to have the contracts suspended later in the meeting.
   “We feel they are all great teachers and we want them here,” said Karst, adding that the teachers who lost their jobs will be placed on a seniority-based recall list. If a teaching position must be added to meet student demand or if the budget situation changes, the teachers on the recall list would be given first priority to return to their jobs.
   Teachers who accept jobs in other districts would be removed from the recall list, Karst said.
   In other business Tuesday, board members:
    Awarded the final set of contracts for the new K-12 building that is being built on the south edge of Rockford. Service Supply Ltd. Inc., won the contract for auditorium seating for $70,840; Findlay Telecom Ltd. Inc., was the lowest bidder for technology systems at $205,000; and Bushong Restaurant Equipment Co., was awarded the contract for kitchen equipment for $448,901.
    Approved an overnight field trip for the FFA group to Columbus April 29-May 1 to attend the state FFA convention.
    Approved an overnight field trip by the TAG group to Chicago on April 7-8.
    Accepted a proposal from Allied Environmental Services Inc. to do a three-year asbestos re-inspection of Parkway facilities for $950.
    Set graduation for May 29 at 6:30 p.m.
    Tabled a decision on awarding the district’s annual school bus maintenance contract.
    Approved a contract with Perry Corp. for copying equipment that will cost the district $.0175 per copy, down from the last contract price of $.0184 per copy.

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