21 people get pink slips at Western

COLLINS About 125 Western Reserve students, parents and staff attended Thursday's Board of Education meeting to protest the board's plans to cut 21 staff members. The move is being billed as a cost-saving measure. Superintendent Don Barnes said the decision was not made quickly.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

COLLINS About 125 Western Reserve students, parents and staff attended Thursday's Board of Education meeting to protest the board's plans to cut 21 staff members.

The move is being billed as a cost-saving measure. Superintendent Don Barnes said the decision was not made quickly.

"We want to give the students the best education we can and live within our budget." He said the revamping of the schedule means more courses will be offered to more students, and talented teachers will no longer be used as study hall or cafeteria monitors.

"We spend too much money here," he said, adding compared to other schools Western spends too much on staffing and does not have nearly enough money in reserves. He said, "We have to turn this ship around."

The board voted to eliminate the following positions: 21/2 language arts, 1 science, 1 math, 1 social studies, 1 tech prep, 1 FCCLA, 1 heath/phys. ed., 3 elementary, 1/2 music, 1 librarian, 1 special education, 4 building substitutes, 11/2 secretaries and 3 aides.

Those affected will be Nan Link, Jan Jump, Aaron Mochon, Jeff Little, Amy Feliciano, Valarie Miller, Eric Dodd, Jack Underwood, Sarah Boss, Debra Strayer, Dolores Conklin, Molly Meyers, Cathy Zuk, Tania Chafin, Jennifer Nolan, Deonna Bethard, Daneile Cantrill, Bob Meagrow, Jessica Ritz, Beth Neuberger and Kari Dee-Breitbach.

Dan McCarthy of the Erie, Huron, Ottawa Educational Service Center was called in to make suggestions about how the school could save money.

"The '90s were a good time for education in Ohio," and many school districts added staff they can no longer afford.

Audience members suggested the school could have saved money by eliminating the drug-testing program and making changes in air conditioning and the phone system instead of cutting staff, increasing class size and reducing class offerings.

McCarthy said the board has made changes in other areas to save money, but between 76 and 85 percent of a school's budget goes to salaries and benefits and the only way to effect real change is to deal with those issues.

Parent Daniel Overstreet said, "I have heard a lot of rumors, and I would like to know how the kids' education will be affected by the cuts. I am not real happy about the situation."

Barnes said the average increase in class size would only be five or six students, and students would still have the courses they need to prepare them for college, tech school or the work world.

Much of the discussion centered around the complaint that the public was kept in the dark about the looming budget crisis. Many people said they would rather pay higher taxes than have staff eliminated and programs affected.

Board member Ken Boose said the board considered putting a levy on the ballot, but members felt it would not pass. "Nobody likes it when people lose their jobs, but you have to live within your means or go out and ask for more taxes," Boose said. "We don't think we can pass a levy."

Another parent in the audience responded, "We would have voted for the levy but you didn't give us a chance."

Treasurer Brett Robson said it would take an 11-mill levy in order to raise the money necessary, though he didn't have any figures to quote on how much this would cost a homeowner.

Barnes said he talked about the budget since coming to Western, both at board meetings and in the Western Front, but apparently the message didn't get through to many people. "I have said many times we are in trouble financially," he said. "We need to run in the black, and we are so close to the red, it is not funny."

One suggestion from the audience was to, "Take the summer and think it over and put it to a vote." School employee Ann Boyd read a statement asking the board to form a committee to study the issue before making any decisions.

Both Barnes and Robson said a school district should ideally have around 15 percent of its annual budget in reserve for emergencies, which for Western, with its $11 million budget, would be around $1.5 million.

At the end of this school year the district will have $183,000 in reserves, and Robson said without the personnel cuts, next year that would drop to $83,000 and by the end of 2011 the school would be $1.7 million in the hole.

With the reductions, there will be $433,000 in reserves at the end of next year and by 2011 it is projected that number will grow to $1.7 million.

"The bottom line is we are running out of money," Boose said before the vote. "Nobody likes it. I don't like it. There is no way people can afford more taxes."

He then suggested anyone who is interested get involved by running for the school board in November when three seats will be up for election.

Comments

Crystal (Anonymous)

I think that is the biggest mistake Western Reserve is laying people off. While the school could layoff some of the school board. Is no thinking about how this is going to affect the students. I guess not. I am just glad my sons are out of the western reserve school distract. The are a lot better in the south with better education!!!

James Rubright ...

So the county auditor allows for carry-over? Things must have changed. There was always a rush to spend year end balances so the budget would not be cut for the next year. The practice of allowing carry-over balances would certainly help for future planning.

A_Taxpayer (Ano...

This is wonderful...finally someone with common sense...instead of taxing us to death you have cut down on staff....Norwalk City Schools and Christie Lane should do the same....We do not need to pay for a Superintendent at every school when we have a county-wide superintendent, we do not need at every school superintendents and their assistant and/or secretary, we do not need a vice principal and their assistant/secretary at every school when you already have a principal and secretary, we do not need more than one guidance counselor at each school nor do we need all the additional aids, secretaries, administrators, assistants, elective courses/teachers....you cut those positions out and voila!! You have the funds you need instead of taxing property owners to death! Kudos to Western Reserve! I hope the rest of county schools follow your example!

I love smart pe...

Have you ever been to Christie Lane?? My brother attends there and I don't feel they have enough staff. Next they could cut English, Math, and all other classes...heck, close the school make the parents educate their own children. Yes way to go!?!

You could say that about any job. Maybe they should eliminate your job, then you won't have to worry about paying your taxes.

I don't send my children to public schools but I would rather pay taxes to educate those who cannt afford private school than to deal with stupid people all the time.

Think about it ...

First, a school is like a non-profit business - you have to live within the means of the budget, or you have to start slashing the budget. Imagine if the district cut all sports instead of teachers. There would have been outrage that sports were cut, and people would have screamed for fluff positions at the schools to be cut. If a levy ended up on the ballot, it probably would have failed. You have to remember that you can not have it all - despite the cuts, Western Reserve will continue to crank out exceptional students who work hard and will be successful. As for laying off the school board, those people don't make any money. I urge you, Crystal, to run for the school board and take an active role.

Tim (Anonymous)

Will there be any cuts for administrators? It isn't fair if everybody else gets cut but they don't! What about coaches and cutting extra curriculars? Isn't the job of a school to give kids an education? Why are all the extras not being cut instead of cutting the meat and potatoes of a school? And why does Dan McCarthy always come in and ruin a perfectly good school?

Crystal (Anonymous)

Will to the comment from "Think about it" I am actually on the PTO on in South Carolina which on here is a lot like the school board. Mine sons class is the size of 12 and there are two teachers. That is the normal for each class. Because they have people to do what they are paid for the childrens education and for the budget for the year to make sure it will work. If not then each school does projects that will make up the difference.

Western Reserve...

There is no reason to get rid of all of those GOOD teachers. If you cant afford to pay the teachers then stop buying stuff we dont need. I heard that you just bought a new bus. We dont need any new buses. We have enough buses. There is like 11 buses just sitting there not being used. SELL some of the buses. You shouldnt get rid of those teachers. I have had most of them and they are really good teachers and they dont deserve to be cut. In the Elementary school why do we need phones in each room? There should just be phones in the office and in the pricebles office. Everybody who agrees with them. Just thinks how would you like if you got cut. You would not like it at all. I have no idea how the school ran out of money. They make money off of everything. They make a bunch of money off of parents.

Disgruntled Adu...

You know how we could save even more money on education?

Outsource the teaching jobs to China!!

How laughable it is that we care so much for our own pocketbooks, but so little for our young citizens and the adults who have dedicated their lives to educating them. When I went to WR, there was a financial crisis during which sports WERE in fact cut, instead of teaching positions. After two or three years of Pay-to-Play, wouldn't you know it, a levy passed!! While it disgusts me that athletics are more important to many Americans than academics, sometimes you have to hit the people where it hurts THEM in order to get what you need. Eliminating educators and other important support staff only hurts the students, which in the long run hurts the community. This is truly a sad day for Western Reserve.

Understanding (...

This problem did NOT happen overnight at WR. The problems have finally been brought to light by Mr. Barnes. The problems have been there for years.We are lucky that he brought this out in the open because had he not told about it we would be in bigger trouble later. There are some on that list that I don't agree with and some that should be added. The one thing that I am not understanding is why there was a new contract just signed with the elem. principal?

jessica (Anonymous)

this sux thats not far if u get a detention then its your own falt and u shouldnt fire any1 the reason why we dont have any mony is because western doesnt spend it right they only spend it on stupid stuff and the teachers should not have 2 suffer for it and your only fireing the cool teachers well the truth is why doesnt the people that are incharge of the money are fired and are replaced with respondsalble people

~*cupcake*~ (An...

this sux thats not far if u get a detention then its your own falt and u shouldnt fire any1 the reason why we dont have any mony is because western doesnt spend it right they only spend it on stupid stuff and the teachers should not have 2 suffer for it and your only fireing the cool teachers well the truth is why doesnt the people that are incharge of the money are fired and are replaced with respondsalble people

jhjk (Anonymous)

i think that they should have had the tax payers vote on the subject, because now they will be paying the same amount and the students education will be affected. and it makes no sense how all the sudden they dont have money they should have managed it alittle better.

still learning ...

It isn't that I don't agree with cutting teachers, I just don't agree that the community was not informed. I also don't agree with the positions that are being cut. There are some positions which could be done away with, but the thought of cutting a math, social studies, language arts, and science teacher is crazy. Those teachers were hired for a reason. Beyond that, I don't agree with the decision to list the names of those affected. Those people are not necessarily the ones fired, and while I don't agree with posting the names of those fired, I feel that by listing the names of those affecting, the community is getting a mixed message. I hope this all works out for Western.

WR Alum (Anonymous)

It is ridiculous for anyone to think that something as simple cutting phone capabilities and other small ticket items are the way out of financial difficulties in a multimillion organization; profit or nonprofit. Additionally, I would guess you people who thought of this brilliant idea would also be the first to complain when some type of tragedy strikes in which it would then take a teacher at the end of some of those very long halls a very long time to run to the office to alert someone to an emergency situation. That is a sad fact of the culture we live in currently. I say "good job" to the board members who have stepped up and made the hard decision. More teachers/staff do not automatically equal better education. I am disheartened, although not surprised that some people feel these decisions were made on the spur of the moment. Many people (apparently those who can read) have been well aware of the financial situation at WR for some time.

Neighbor close ...

I feel sorry for the students at Western Reserve. Little does anyone realize but they are the only people who will feel the effect of this. Schools can cut corners in other ways, i.e. less spending on supplies, cut assistant coaches, cut unneccessary supplements, extended time, eliminate an admimistrator. Why not talk to neighboring schools who have gone through the same situation (new building, budget cuts)? The community may think this is all great because they will not have their taxes raises but how many parents enjoy doing hours of homework with their child at night? Teachers will have larger class sizes which will make it more difficult to run a productive classroom, so guess what?!? More homework for the students...why...because the State of Ohio says that students must pass an Ohio Achievement/Graduation Tests inorder for your school to get more funded from them. More taxes is not the answer...cutting in other areas makes more sense for starters!

A_Taxpayer (Ano...

Some of you fail to understand the cuts MUST come from the staff as up to 85% of the budget is in STAFF SALARIES...cutting smaller budgeted areas will not fix the financial problem....
Schools already receive funds from not only our very heavy property taxes, but also our state and federal taxes as well in addition to lottery and donations...TAXPAYERS all have to live within their means and that should go as well for our schools especially when THE TAXPAYERS are footing the bill!

Senior07 (Anonymous)

COMMENT REMOVED for violating the terms of use.

Western Graduat...

I went through 13 years at Western Reserve with 30 + students in my class and did just fine. I was looking at the district's website before the announcement was made about cuts and was questioning why we had so many teachers in the High School/Middle School as opposed to when I was there in the late 90's.

We need to save money now and if that means staff cuts then so be it.

An Administrator was cut, the Guidance Counselor in the Elementary.

Long Time Educa...

What a sad day for the local community. Being an outsider, I am astonished at a few procedural elements in this case. Why was the local community not formally notified well in advance (via a community forum or levey drive)? Also, since schools are mandated under NCLB to meet certain academic proficiences, shouldn't extra & co-curriculuars of been sacraficed before the formal academic curriculum? It sounds as if Thomas Jefferson's greatest fear has come to life in this situation, "the greatest challenge to democracy is an ignorant populace"