ROACHDALE -- Once again, concerned parents, teachers, staff and administrators filled the auditorium at North Putnam High School Thursday night to hear what school board members had to say about reduction in force issues.
Board President Andy Beck opened the meeting telling the audience of the resignation of Dale McGaughey from the board. He said applications would be accepted from persons interested in serving on the board.
Superintendent Dr. Mary Lovejoy got down to business, addressing concerns with a reduction in force (RIF), the financial status of the corporation, enrollment projections and teacher/student class ratio with reductions.
She emphasized athletics, band, choir and dance team would not be cut at any of the schools.
"We're not considering eliminating these. We're trying to keep a balanced program for our students," she said.
Lovejoy reiterated her statement from the last meeting that if RIF's occurred there would be no mailed letters. They would be hand-delivered in meetings with administrators present. Reductions of certified personnel would also be done according to the contract between the school and the teachers.
The superintendent went on to say any reductions would be done according to the North Putnam teachers contracts, which is based on seniority.
"If a teacher is laid off and is certified to teach in another area, they will be transferred to that area and can bump a teacher with less seniority," explained Lovejoy.
Certified staff reduction could affect seven positions in special areas, such as music and art. There could be seven in general education and three in special education.
Regarding the financial status of the corporation, Lovejoy explained that a great deal of money was borrowed within the last year.
"In January '09, the board was asked to approve $6.7 million in loans; $4.7 million was paid back, but another $3 million was borrowed in June and $1 million in July. We currently owe $2.5 million," said Lovejoy.
She went on to explain that the corporation's general fund had $900,000, but the transportation fund was $127,000 in debt.
"We lost $500,000 from the enrollment being down. If we do nothing, we will end the year at $2.5 to $3 million in debt," she said.
The enrollment project for the upcoming year is also a consideration. Assistant to the superintendent Kevin Emsweller explained that over the last five years, the school has been losing enrollment to the tune of 1,703 students.
This is tied into the teacher/student ratio and the effect a reduction will have. Some of the breakouts he showed the group included fewer class sections and slightly larger classes in some grades.
"We don't want any classes with more than 30 students," he said.
Roachdale Elementary would keep the number of students the same in most cases, but Bainbridge, which has lost more students, would see some classes grow from 18 to 22 students in second grade, plus the addition of three to six students in higher grades.
Emsweller said the board was also looking at the class size discrepancy between the two elementary schools and talked about transferring some students from Bainbridge to Roachdale.
Lovejoy addressed possible changes to athletics that would include the high school athletic director taking care of the both the high school and middle school, reducing the number of assistant coaches in all sports, closing the swimming pool except for two months out of the year and reducing extra curricular staff.
She told the crowd they were trying to find ways to keep the pool open by possibly offering swimming lessons and opening it to the public, as ways to generate revenue for it.
Beck jumped in, adding it is better for the pool to be open with people using it from a maintenance point of view. Board members are still looking at reducing hours for instructional assistants, custodians and nurses by 30 minutes a day (15 minutes at the beginning and end of the day). This would provide a savings of $169,000 a year.
"Total cuts would equal $1.8 million, and that is in line with the $2.2 million debt," said Lovejoy.
Several members of the audience took the podium when the opportunity was presented. Many parents expressed concern over reducing teachers, eliminating music, arts or sports programs and changing class sizes.
Members of the football team politely took the podium in support of their coach and teacher.
"Our coach and teacher has taught us to be young men," said one player. "We want teachers to be evaluated on the person they are."
Band Director John Pinson spoke in favor of the music department and what it brings to the students.
"Since I came here in 2007, the number of students in band has increased 59 percent," said Pinson.
Staff member and parent Shannon Kincaid took the microphone and told the board she would not want to be sitting in their seats. She asked if her elementary school child would have art classes next year.
"Yes," responded Lovejoy. "She will."
At the same time, one of the teachers in the audience commented, "It will be the classroom teacher who teaches it."
State Representative and North Putnam graduate Nancy Michael spoke to board members telling them Bill 1367 was passed by the house today.
"We hope to get it through and get money back to you," said Michael.
She explained a little about the bill and what it meant, encouraging board members to contact State Senator Connie Lawson to vote for it in the Senate.
"As a legislature I know we don't always make your jobs easy, but I hope this bill will help," she said.
Parent Jill Summerlot spoke to the board.
"Do not put this debt on the backs of our children. This is not their debt to pay," she said.
She asked if cuts to administrators had been considered. Lovejoy told her she was willing to take a pay cut.
Summerlot also asked if board members would give up their $2,000-a-year stipend for serving on the board. At the end of the meeting, board members Debbie Sillery and Beck told the group that they would not accept the stipend this year.
"Remember, we are all here because of our children," concluded Summerlot.
Some concern was brought up because many people did not receive the message sent on the Honeywell system at 5 p.m. today reminding people of the meeting.
Lovejoy asked anyone who did not receive the message to call the office and let the school know.