ROCSD reductions impact staff

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By Nick Johansen

The Red Oak School Board heard a proposal for a wave of cuts for the next school year designed to reduce the impact to the district’s budget. 

Superintendent Tom Messinger advised the board that at no point in time was a budget cut something that anyone looked forward to, and that the proposed cuts for next year would be a change in how the district operates in certain areas. 

“I have held staff meetings to let people know there will be budget reductions necessary, and have laid out the reductions we’re looking at this year, and for the next three to five years,” Messinger said. 

Messinger added that the intent was to make cuts by attrition, rather than by reducing positions that would impact employment. However, only one certified instructor took the option for early retirement. 

“It made things a little more difficult for us. We had six people choose the option from our support staff, which was a benefit, but the certified staff did not give us the results we anticipated,” advised Messinger. 

The proposed cuts:

Messinger outlined the positions considered under the cuts, and the cost savings the eliminated positions would give to the district. The cost savings included the position’s salary, FICA and IPERS, and insurance. 

• One full-time first grade classroom teacher, $46,918. 

To make up for the loss, the first grade would move from four sections to three, with 18 students per section. 

• One full-time third grade classroom teacher, $46,918. 

To cover the loss, the third grade class would drop from five sections to four. Three sections would have 20 students, a fourth section would have 21. 

• One full-time instrumental music teacher, $74,046. 

The current schedule at Red Oak High School is one period of instrumental music. The middle school would reduce from five independent sections to three in sixth grade. Also at the middle school, there would be a required four periods of instrumental music per day, a reduction from six periods of instrumental music and one period for lessons per day. Additionally, one person would hold all three instrumental supplemental contracts, middle school and high school instrumental music, and high school band. 

• One full-time special education teacher, $52,472. 

The reduction would be at Washington Intermediate. The student numbers on the individualized education program (IEP) are reduced, and next year, Washington will have a total of 14 IEP students. 

“The top four positions currently have people assigned to those positions. Not all of those positions, if eliminated, would result in someone not having a job. It depends upon if someone else were to leave and shuffling people around. However, those are actual reductions in positions that are filled by someone,” Messinger said.  

• One full time middle school/high school social studies teacher, $95,872. 

Messinger said this position was vacant after the instructor agreed to the early retirement incentive. The middle school compressed class would eliminate the need for the position. At the high school, they would need to reduce one period of world studies, increasing the class size to roughly 30 students. The other option was to have a special education teacher who was certified in social studies teach one period of the class to keep the class size the same. 

“If our IEP student numbers end up where we believe they are going to, that person could take a period off from teaching special education to teach the social studies class and not impact the class size,” Messinger said. 

• One full-time building administrator, $131,776. 

The remaining administrators would cover all evaluations. Administrative duties would be redefined and distributed utilizing strengths of personnel. 

• Five full-time para-professional positions, $142,264. 

Four of the positions were eliminated with early retirements. A fifth position was not refilled at the beginning of the school year. 

Total budget reduction: $590,268, using this year’s salary and benefits. 

“No matter what cuts we make, or where we find reductions, this year will not be the end of it. We have to make reductions the next three to five years,” Messinger said. 

Messinger added the reductions would not eliminate any programs or offerings this year, but future cuts would cause a reduction in the district’s offerings, or have a dramatic impact on the offerings within the program. Also, Messinger felt the cuts would not impact the district on the federal or state guidelines. 

“Part of what makes the whole picture difficult is that if we pick and choose cuts, there are things that could come back to haunt us. If we say we have to make $525,000 in cuts, there’s wiggle room for us to keep one of the positions on this list. We also have to be prepared for an increase in enrollment next year. These cuts are based on our current numbers, but next year’s enrollment will dictate whether we need to keep one of the elementary positions, or the special education position,” Messinger stated. 

Board action on the cuts is scheduled for the March 13 board meeting.