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04-22-04 School board lays off 17 employees

By Lance Mihm
lmihm@dailystandard.com

  ST. MARYS -- Board of education members laid off 17 employees, none who were teachers or administrators, during a school board meeting Wednesday to help offset projected budget deficits.

  The impact could have been much worse, but was curbed after several teachers announced their retirement. Those positions will not be filled next school year.
  "This is one of the most difficult decisions a board of education can make," Superintendent Paul Blaine said. "There are 17 people being laid off, and nobody is pleased with that. It's a hard thing to do but we have to balance the budget. I recommend this action with the deepest personal regret."
  Layoffs were based on seniority, with a secretary, two non-certified library staff, three cleaners and 11 aides being let go. The 17 people worked a total of 10.33 full-time equivalent positions.
  Three of the people laid off were rehired to part-time positions, leaving a total of 14 people out of work. The school board would not release the names of those losing their jobs because those people have not yet been notified, Blaine said.  At Wednesday's meeting four teachers and four certified staff, such as cafeteria workers and maintenance personnel, retired. Four teachers announced retirements at earlier meetings.
  The hours of one administrative position will be cut in half, but that position or person has not yet been announced.
  "We were pleased with that," Blaine said of not having to lay off teachers. "We wanted to protect class sizes as much as possible."
  All of the layoffs were based on seniority.
  Two applicants for the superintendent's position will return for second interviews on Monday.
  Kenneth C. Baker, a principal at Wyoming High School for the last seven years, and Brion Deitsch, superintendent for Edgerton Local Schools during the last seven years, will be interviewed at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Monday.
  "We have spent many hours going through the 26 candidates," board President Grady Shaner said. "We have two in particular that we like, but we have not ruled out any of the applicants."
  Shaner also said a community assistance team would be appointed to help select a new superintendent.
  Board members have visited school districts and talked with staff and residents in both districts of the two finalists.
  The position came open after Blaine announced his retirement effective Aug. 1. The board hopes to hire a superintendent at the May 12 board meeting.
  An auction date for Moulton Elementary School was set for June 2 at 10 a.m.
  The sale will not immediately be final, as it must be approved by the school board at the June 9 meeting. The building was offered to the Auglaize County Educational Service Center for $485,530, and ESC Superintendent Pat Niekamp notified the board that the ESC was not interested in the purchase.
  School officials already are preparing for the impact of Moulton closing, which was necessary due to budget reductions. Moulton students in grades 1, 3 and 5 will attend classes at East elementary May 18 and grades 2 and 4 will attend May 20.
  "The kids have had general questions, like where the bathrooms and classrooms are," East Principal James Carpenter said. "This will help them get more familiar."
  In other business, the board:
   Accepted a plaque from Otterbein-St. Marys administrator Terry L. Schollmeier for things done by students to help enhance the lives of Otterbein residents. Schollmeier noted visits from kindergarten and third-grade classes, as well as other students singing, playing games and decorating the premises.
   Designated May 3-7 as Right to Read Week.
   Designated May 10-14 as Staff Appreciation Week.
   Accepted a $5,000 donation from the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a $100 donation to the choir and a $2,000 donation to the school from the family of former East school teacher Dorothy Armstrong.
   Accepted a bid for high school roof repairs from Cotterman and Co., Minster, for $7,375.
   Announced that school would release 90 minutes early May 10 for a teacher in-service.

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