Board looks at reducing teaching staff in light of potential budget shortfall

SHERIDAN – The Sheridan School District could face a $30,000 shortfall next year, superintendent Kim Harding told the Sheridan School Board at Tuesday’s meeting.

After meeting with the business office, principal and teachers union representatives Harding explained the shortfall is a result of rising insurance costs and automatic pay raises for classified staff in the existing pay matrix.

Harding made the recommendation for a reduction in force for the physical education department as well as the counseling department. Additional program changes may include budget cuts for textbooks and instructional materials, athletic and extra curricular programs and vocational programs in co curricular areas.

Harding informed the board that the adoption of her recommendations could affect the employment of several teachers, but it will ultimately depend on what the final budget is.

“Due to declining enrollment we do not know if we will be able to maintain the same budget as last year,” she said. “While none of us like these recommended changes, we must be prepared for budget shortfalls in these uncertain times.”

“OPI is not yet ready to release the necessary budget data, and due to the strict time frame based on state law and the Sheridan Federation of Teachers Union, we must begin the RIF process,” Harding said.

Several members of the public at the meeting expressed their concern over the shortfall, especially after last year’s mill levy did not pass. Sheridan resident and former school board member Karen Talley admonished the board about the potential consequences of the $30,000 shortfall.

“If the ANB (average number belonging) numbers stay the same from this year to next year, there is going to be another huge shortfall because the numbers have dropped,” Talley said. “Whatever you decide, it’s key to make sure the mill levies pass.”

Trustee Mike Berry questioned the possibility of not passing a mill levy two years in a row.

“I would rather see programs go than teachers go or positions lost,” Berry said.

Sheridan school counselor Laurie Bartoletti said while teachers in the district don’t want to see anyone go, they understand that the issue must be confronted.

“The teachers want the school and the school board to be fiscally responsible, as does the community,” Bartoletti said. “We realize that in certain areas we may be overstaffed, so it’s a very difficult decision.”

In other news the board carried a motion to approve Policy 2132 regarding student and family privacy rights. All surveys requesting personal information from students, as well as any other instrument used to collect personal information from students, must advance or relate to the district’s educational objectives as identified in board policy.  This applies to all surveys, regardless of whether the student answering the questions can be identified and regardless of who created the survey.

The board also received a presentation from principal Rodney Stout on random drug testing for the Sheridan School District. Stout contacted other districts throughout the state to gather feedback on drug testing policies, and he shared the pros and cons of implementing such a policy. Both Stout and Laurie Bartoletti encouraged the board to look into specific concerns within the Sheridan School District before adopting and enforcing a chemical use policy.

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