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Education

Layoffs of 50 from Sylvania schools likely

The Sylvania City School District expects to drop 50 staff positions, including 31 teachers, to eliminate a projected $4.2 million deficit by June 30, 2011.

Superintendent Brad Rieger told the Board of Education at a meeting at Southview High School last night that most reductions would be through retirements, resignations, and leaving vacancies unfilled. In the end, about 15 teachers would be laid off before school begins in the fall, said Consuelo Hernandez, executive director of human resources.

The board plans a special meeting next Monday to vote on the superintendent's proposals, although comments from board members indicate Mr. Rieger's proposal to cut seven math intervention teachers may be modified.

Board President Jim Nusbaum said the board will consider putting a tax issue on the fall ballot. That decision would be made this summer, he said.

A $3.2 million deficit projected earlier this year grew as a result of continued losses of property taxes and state funding, and a growing number of foreclosures, Treasurer Laura Sauber said.

Mr. Rieger said 85 percent of the district's $85 million operating budget is spent on salaries and benefits, leaving little from operations for significant reductions.

"We are in the people business and we connect with kids," Mr. Rieger said. "These [the eliminated positions] are numbers, but there are faces behind them. And that's what is so challenging."

The superintendent outlined $3.9 million in budget reductions, with the lion's share, $1.3 million, coming from operational expenses such as building and department budgets for the district's 12 sites.

The district plans to save $450,000 by not purchasing new computers or updating current ones and an additional $150,000 by not purchasing textbooks.

Mr. Rieger said the $3.9 million doesn't match the $4.2 million projected deficit, but further action would wait for "the dust to settle" from this set of proposals before advancing further. Additional resignations and cost reductions elsewhere could make up the difference, he said.

Other proposed cuts and their savings include support services, where eight positions would be eliminated to save $328,000. Adding all-day kindergarten in the fall would eliminate midday bus routes, thus saving the equivalent of 4.5 positions, Mr. Rieger said.

The elementary staff would lose 14.5 positions.

Those include math and reading intervention teachers, special education teachers, guidance counselors, and a general education teacher.

The junior high schools would lose two English teachers, two special-education positions, two special education paraprofessionals, and a part-time French teaching position.

In the high schools, 10 teaching positions would be dropped in social studies, math, science, English, special education, career/medical technology, agriculture, German, and physical education. Chinese language instruction, which is contracted through the University of Toledo, also would be pared.

Last night's discussion over proposed reductions marks the third time in eight years the district has had to make or propose severe budget cuts.

David Spiess, who joined the board in 2002, called the latest cycle "heart-wrenching."

"At this point in time we should be investing in education, but instead we are divesting in education," Mr. Spiess said.

In 2004, the school district eliminated 72 positions before placing a 4.9-mill levy on the fall ballot. The issue, which was approved, generates $7 million a year.

Mr. Rieger said money from the continuing operating levy remains steady, while inflation and other costs continue to rise.

Two students said later the priorities for cuts appeared to be misplaced.

"Clearly the need for cuts is necessary," said Allison Yocum, 17, a junior at Northview, adding that cuts should not be made in science, technology, and math intervention. She suggested the board take its budget ax to soft classes that students use to fill time or beef up their grade point averages.

"There are classes people take to get easy 'A's. Those are not what colleges are looking for."

Yanni Papadimos, 17, also a Northview junior, concurred, saying the board has neglected the opinions of its students about classes that should be retained and areas that can be cut.

"They have not asked the students yet," he said.

Contact Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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