Hiring freeze part of proposed CMS budget cuts

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Working to cut $600,000 out of a $54 million dollar budget, Clovis Municipal Schools administration focused on keeping all 1,100 employees and keeping the cuts away from students.

Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said budget cuts were no surprise and the district has been planning for them.

“We’ve been trying to be proactive,” Seidenwurm said. “We have not been hiring at central office as early as this summer.”

The superintendent has prepared a list of suggested cuts to the district’s budget which she will present to the school board during a special meeting on Tuesday.

Her suggestions include immediate changes and some that would cut the budget if further cuts are handed down by the Legislature.

The largest percentage of cuts hit the administration office with $212,000 being sliced from it’s budget. The savings are made by reducing full-time positions to part-time and not replacing vacant positions.

For example, $13,000 could be saved in custodial costs by changing the position from full-time to part-time.

The position of transportation inventory coordinator can be absorbed by assigning those duties to two other coordinators. The change equals a net savings of $33,000.

“Everything that’s outlined that we’re doing this year, we kept away from the kids. They shouldn’t feel those things at all,” Seidenwurm said. “The changes will be very painful for many of our staff members as they might be moved to a new job, a new location and have to pick up different work loads.”

Another suggested change is phasing out certified librarians in the elementary school and replacing them with non-certified personnel.

Three certified librarians remain in the district and will move into teaching positions in December. The net savings would be between $80,000 to $100,000.

“If the funding formula is ever passed, we will have certified librarians in every elementary school. I think that’s important,” Seidenwurm said. “But when eight schools don’t have one and three do, it’s an obvious place to look.”

Student-teacher ratios in special education will meet instead of exceed state and federal regulations which will save the district about $200,000 in salary expense.

Travel budgets will be cut by 50 percent, with a savings of about $40,000, by reducing out-of-state travel and bringing professional development to the staff instead of the other way around.

“All building positions will be covered,” Seidenwurm said. “The savings is by moving staff members who do not currently have full loads into positions where we would otherwise have to hire a teacher.”

Seidenwurm said six to 12 teachers leave the district each semester for various reasons and current staff will be shifted to fill voids.

The superintendent said it would be fiscally irresponsible not to look ahead to the 2010-2011 school year if education suffers further cuts by the state.

Her proposals include cutting one-third of student and teacher support provided through instructional coaches, literacy specialist and special education liaisons.

Seidenwurm said the change would mean many services currently provided at the district level would have to be absorbed at the school level and would mean decreased levels of instructional support in some Title I schools.

Further cuts include moving middle school athletics outside the school day. The district would regain about $100,000 of teachers salaries by the move. Middle school coaches would receive an additional stipend for adding 45 minutes to their work day.

Sixth grade band would also be moved outside the school day. The district would save $60,000. With the move, students wouldn’t be pulled from regular classroom instruction in order to participate in beginning band.

Strings would be eliminated as a district-wide program. Seidenwurm said the district spent five years trying to recruit students and have 14 at the middle school level. The middle school strings will remain, but there will be no plans to expand it.

“As we sat down with the music and athletic directors, we looked at several options,” Seidenwurm said. “Several options looked at cutting programs, such as having one team instead of two at middle school. We didn’t want to do that because then less kids can participate.”

Athletic director Brian Stacey said of the several proposals looked at, moving middle school athletics outside the school day was the option that had the least amount of impact on personnel and students.

“That was my number one issue,” he said. “That’s the best solution we could come up with that wouldn’t affect anything else we’re doing.”

Eliminating programs, reducing team sizes and numbers, downsizing schedules, and eliminating staff were all looked at and passed on, Stacey said.

“Number one, we weren’t going to take from kids. Number two, we weren’t going to lose staff. And number three is what’s left, which is what we came up with,” Stacey said.

Stacey said moving middle school athletics would be a small adjustment for families and students. New practice times will be discussed if the proposal passes, Stacey said. Because of facilities, Stacey said practices will probably be before or after school.

“We’re not spending money on anything we don’t think is important. But when budgets have to be cut, you look as far away as you can from children and programs,” Seidenwurm said. “What we’ve suggested is as far away from kids as we can make it and about as far as we can go without affecting programs.”