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School District eyes position cuts

By Staff | Jun 17, 2016

The Lee County Public Schools preliminary budget includes the elimination of numerous positions, as well as new initiatives to save the district money.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said Tuesday afternoon that the preliminary budget presented before the board in workshop represented a significant challenge.

“The dollars allocated to the district were less than what we would have desired with less than 1 percent,” Adkins said during the afternoon meeting. “We have the challenges of increasing growth. We are also in a very competitive environment when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff. There are significant reductions in some areas, including the district office. We moved a significant number of resources out to schools that is reflective in this budget.”

Business and Finance Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ami Desamours said the district expects there will be about a 7 percent increase in tax roll. The number will finalized on July 1 with the certified roll.

“Hopefully that 7 percent figure holds up,” she said, adding that at this point there should be no reason it would not.

Even with a projected 7 percent increase in overall property valuation, the district’s general fund would not benefit.

Desamours said the general fund increased by $17 million and the total budget increased about $22.5 million. She said as they near the final budget numbers, it is expected to rise.

Desamours said a 3 percent retirement rate is reflective in the budget, resulting in a little more than $1 million. The district also has to contribute a little more than a half a million dollars to charter schools for a reading allocation, something they did not have to do last year.

The $1.4 billion total budget also includes daily planning for every teacher in every school, which Desamours said had an impact on the budget. With daily planning and a 2 percent student growth could have an impact on class sizes.

“We structured the budget that middle schools and elementary schools will be able to accomplish their daily planning within the allocation that we gave them,” she said. “We increased high school allocation by about one and a half million to accomplish that daily planning; however we did increase class size.”

Although numbers have increased, the budget reflected some cuts.

The district also is implementing positions changes, as well as the elimination of positions resulting in $3 million.

Some of the eliminations include an office manager in the superintendent’s office, a social worker paraprofessional for early childhood, reading coach k-5, coaching specialists for secondary curriculum and staff development, director for turnaround schools, executive secretary and an accounting clerk for Safe Schools fund.

Desamours said they had a reduction of six district office administrative positions.

“This was our attempt to really look at how things are working within divisions right now and how can we produce greater results and retool them to get more out of the funding that we had,” Desamours said about the positions suggested to be eliminated.

Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Soretta Ralph said they did some major reorganization and they have put their staff out in schools.

“We have made a slight reduction in our staff. We have gone from 12 coordinators, down to six coordinators for this upcoming school year,” Ralph said. “We are going to have our professional development leaders out in our schools. We will have 20 of those people assigned to our schools. They will each have five to six schools that they will be assigned to and they will be providing that support to that school every week. They will be teaching 20 percent of the time at those hard to staff and DA schools.”

Board member Steve Teuber said he really has to commend Ralph and her staff for really putting people out in the schools because that is a bold move.

“As a leader it’s a frightening thing because you really have to put your faith in your people. You really have to trust when you push the power out there and you give the power to the people in the facilities that they can do their jobs,” Teuber said. “This is the first time in 16 years this district, and I haven’t seen it across anywhere else in the state, that a superintendent is willing to put his faith in his staff, his people, and push the power away from him saying I trust you guys saying this is what we need to do and this is where we are going to go. We are going to see in our schools that the affect is going to be outstanding in our schools.”

Ralph said they are also providing some savings to the district with the money being used at the hard to serve schools to provide resources that are needed.

“We are going to roll up our sleeves and we are going to ensure we are meeting the needs of those schools,” she said. “We are looking at some changes we can make in our ESE department. We have in the past assigned our coordinators by zones, but we know their expertise might be better served at different levels, so we have redesigned that to be at possibly early childhood and elementary and then our middle schools and high schools.”

Operations Assistant Superintendent Dr. William Law shared a few initiatives during the meeting – one dealing with the five year bus replacement program, and an energy initiative program.

Out of the 877 buses in the Lee County Public Schools, 755 buses are out of warranty. To decrease the maintenance cost, Law said they have purchased 37 new buses, which will arrive sometime in September or October.

In addition, the district will continue to purchase 57 additional buses each year for the next five years. Law said they will also participate in a lease-to-own program of 180 buses, which he hopes will arrive by the end of the year.

The lease-to-own program will provide a $1 million cost savings a year, with $5 million to reinvest at the end of five years.

In regards to the energy initiative program, Law said they are in the process of looking at consultants for cost savings.

Adkins said they took a lot of time to go over this particular budget.

“This is what we feel is the best based on the dollars that are available,” he said. “We would have loved to have some resources, but with less than 1 percent, we really had to roll up our sleeves.”