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Published: Friday, 4/24/2009

Wauseon school board cuts $875,000 as layoffs loom for 8

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON - Five teachers and three school support staff face layoffs as a result of $875,000 in spending cuts the Wauseon Village Exempted Schools board approved yesterday to balance the district's budget.

The board's 4-0 vote, with president Sandra Griggs absent, followed impassioned pleas from several parents in the audience to reconsider the layoffs, particularly as they affected an elementary school art teacher.

"Take a deep breath before voting," Shane Chamberlin, the father of a first grader and a preschooler, implored the board after presenting petitions asking for the art teacher's retention. "Ask yourself: Is this the right thing to do for the children?"

Board member William Drummer assured the small gathering in the board's offices layoffs were "not something we're taking lightly."

Superintendent Marc Robinson said laying off the art teacher did not mean the district was abandoning art instruction. "I acknowledge, we all acknowledge, that anything you do in the mode of budget reductions has a negative impact," he said. "There isn't anything good about it. But the financial situation we're in is very real."

The district spent about $540,000 more in the 2007-08 school year than it received in revenue. Mr. Robinson had forecast an even deeper deficit for this year.

So far, the district has tapped reserve funds to balance its budget, and as recently as September it considered placing an operating levy on the May 5 ballot. But during a Feb. 10 board meeting, Mr. Robinson announced he could not advocate for a new levy in the current economic climate and would instead recommend "extremely difficult and painful" cuts.

Along with the art teacher, faculty layoffs the board approved were first-grade and third-grade classroom teachers, a marketing education teacher, and a special-education intervention specialist. The three support-staff members to lose their jobs are two sweepers and a teacher's aide.

Several other positions, including another elementary school teacher, will be eliminated through attrition, with the total staff-cut savings calculated at $483,426. Nonstaff cuts include elimination of district funding to have a police officer in the schools, though during the meeting yesterday the board encouraged police Chief Keith Torbet to pursue grant funding that could sustain that program on at least a part-time basis.

Mr. Robinson said the district plans to have classroom teachers in first through fifth grades add art instruction to their teaching.

Lisa Dietrich, a mother of four including two now in the Wauseon schools, said adding art teaching to classroom teachers' work loads would dilute the education her children receive. She and Mr. Chamberlin both suggested that district officials consider cutting sports and other extracurricular activities, or switch to a "pay to play" model for them.

But board member Miriam Frank said she had spoken with "many teachers" about that plan and believe they were willing and able to take on the additional duty.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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