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SOLSD Cuts: Phase Three Will Cut 23 Teacher Positions, Funding to Sports
Written by Darin Brown, General Manager   
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:55 PM

Phase three cuts were approved by the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District during their meeting on Feb. 21 by a vote of 4-1. The cuts are part of a continued plan by the district to put its financial house in order after a five year forecast presented in October had them at a $5.1 million dollar deficit by 2017.

Phase three cuts are set to go into effect for the 2013-14 school year. They are also dependent upon whether or not the district’s levy proposed in May passes or fails. If the levy fails, phase three cuts will take place.

The cuts that will take place in 2013-14 are as follows, according to the agenda for the Feb. 21 school board meeting: 1. “Close River High School’s bus garage and eliminate one bus mechanic position (effective 8/1/2013).” 2. “All athletic and extra-curricular programs must be financially self-supporting. All programs will be required to cover 100% of their expenditures, including supplemental contracts for coaches and assistant coaches, equipment and uniforms, transportation, field maintenance, referees, etc., effective 2013-14 school year.” 3. “Eliminate six ESC teaching aide positions, effective 8/1/13.” 4. “Eliminate one ESC Tag position, effective 8/1/13.” 5. Reorganization of the school district to include elimination of 23 certified positions, effective 2013-14 school year.”

The most difficult cuts are certainly those of 23 teaching positions. Before the vote on cuts took place, Superintendent Larry Elliott said grimly, “Possibly, one in five of our teachers may be gone next year.” While some of the 23 positions could be eliminated through attrition, there will certainly be layoffs.

With losing so many teaching professionals, the quality of education will also most likely suffer. Creative thinking will also need to take place on how to staff all the schools while cutting 23 positions. According to board president Ron Winkler, that is where the language “reorganization of the school district” comes in to account.

Though Winkler said other possibilities were discussed, he would only disclose one possibility of “reorganization” which would see Sardis become a K-4 school and Hannibal become a 5-8 school. Of course, such a change would only be temporary since the two schools are set to merge in 2014-15 anyway.

The other startling cut is that of all funding to extracurricular activities. While the activities will still be allowed to exist, they will have to be funded entirely through pay-to-play initiatives, fund raisers, and booster activity. For those wishing to participate in sports or other activities, the cost is likely to be high.

While four board members voted for the phase three cuts (including Ron Winkler, Janelle Comstock, Dave Matz and Ed Carleton), there was one dissenting vote placed by the board’s newest member Justin Isaly. Isaly was quick to say that he supports the cuts but would not vote on a measure that was only a stop-gap.

According to Isaly, further cuts and re-organization were discussed during previous meetings among board members and the state. The phase three cuts did not include all the cuts discussed or needed for long-term viability. “I felt like we needed to get everything out of the road instead of putting ourselves back to the table six months, a year, two years later to come up with more cuts,” Isaly said.

When asked about what further cuts would be, Isaly said the only options the district has left is to close schools or to restructure schools. For example, solutions discussed were to make Skyvue, Woodsfield, Hannibal/Sardis and Powhatan all K-6 schools while making Monroe Central and River 7-12 schools. Isaly said of such possibilities, “Nobody wants to make these cuts. But I want people to realize that this is how bad it is, and this is what really needs done [if the upcoming levy does not pass].”

Backing up Isaly’s statement, when asked if the phase three cuts (combined with phase one and two cuts) will bring the school district back into the black and out of the red, SOLSD treasurer Lance Erlwein said, “That unfortunately only takes us into the black for two years.” That means, if levy funding is not received, conversations will continue about cuts into the future.

Erlwein also concurred with Isaly that those cuts would have to count on shutting down entire schools. “The only thing left to cut is to close buildings. In doing a temporary cut [such as the phase three cuts], we are avoiding the closing of brand new buildings,” Erlwein said.