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D 49 feels the pain of budget cuts

Shortfalls in the Colorado state budget are forcing Falcon School District 49 to reduce the 2010-2011 budget by $7.5 million. The cut in state funding is the second major cut in six months, and district officials believe there are more to come.”Because we are government, we lag behind the private sector,” said Joleen Schaake, D 49 chief financial officer. “They’ve been hurting for a year and now it’s our turn.”Proposed reductions include cutting about 93 positions district wide, including 66 certified positions, 18.5 support staff and eight administrative positions, said Bradley Schoeppey, D 49 superintendent.The District 49 administration presented the proposed cuts to the board of education March 11. The board delayed voting on the plan in order to present the information to staff and community at two public meetings held in late March.No modifications will be made to the plan before it goes to the board again March 24, Schoeppey said.The major change in this budget is the way funding is allocated to each school. In the past, Schoeppey said each school was staffed essentially the same. Starting with the 2010-2011 fiscal year, staffing resources will be based on the number of students at each school.In previous cuts, the district spared the classroom, he said. After reducing central administration budgets by more than $2 million in the past two years, Schoeppey said there aren’t many areas left to cut.The new cuts include school support staff and administration across the district, high school gifted and talented advisors, elementary school specials teachers and literacy coaches.Schoeppey said all elementary schools currently have an assistant principal. Under the new plan, only schools with 600 or more students would qualify for an assistant principal. Three of the nine elementary schools would lose assistant principals.At the high school and middle school level, Schoeppey said similar principles are applied to the number of secretaries, deans, counselors and library aids.The elementary schools will be allotted full-time specials positions based on student population. “Each school has to provide P.E., music and art, but they don’t have to all be full-time,” he said. Schools that want to keep Spanish and technology classes can hire part-time teachers.Elementary school literacy coaches are being cut altogether, but gifted and talented teachers will remain on staff. High school gifted and talented specialists will be eliminated since students in the program should be enrolled in Advance Placement courses, and paperwork associated with those students can be completed by academic counselors, Schoeppey said.”This has not been an easy process,” he said. “We focused on hitting the classroom as little as possible. We feel these are the best cuts under the circumstances.”Mary Guinn, deputy superintendent of D 49, said the district should be able to absorb most of the cuts through attrition and shuffling personnel into different positions within the district. “It might not be the same job, but it will be a job,” Guinn said.The staffing plan only addresses a portion of D 49’s budget problems. Schoeppey said more cuts will be made between now and May, when the budget goes to the board for final approval.More cuts are likely next year, as the economic outlook is not expected to change, he said.Peggy Gray, D 49 employee, said she appreciates the school board and administration getting the word out about the proposals. “I might not like it, but I respect what they are doing,” Gray said.Gray attended the information meeting held at Falcon High School March 18, where the staffing plan was explained in full. “Now I know the facts and figures and can go back and share what I know,” Gray said.Caryn Kessinger, Remington Elementary Parent Teachers Association president, said the information meeting cleared up much of the confusion and rumors.”I feel better knowing the responsibility lies in the school,” Kessinger said. She is still concerned that cutting specialists puts too much responsibility on the classroom teachers to address all the needs of the students. “I will get with our principal so that we are not losing value,” she said.School board member David Martin said he wants the community to fully understand the process the district is going through. “As we come to next year’s cuts, it will be more painful,” Martin said.He said the district will need to go to the parents for additional funding. “In order to keep some of the things we need, we will have to open our wallets,” Martin said.Even in down economic times, Martin is confident the district has a strong case. “The community will put the kids first,” he said.

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