Unexpected $4.75 million shortfall leads to staff dismissals; more are expected
LORAIN — The Lorain school district is eliminating 246 of the district’s 714 teachers.
And the job cuts won’t end with those announced Thursday — the district still plans to make additional cuts to administrative and support personnel in the next few days.
The district already has mailed notices to the teachers who will lose their jobs in what Superintendent Dee Morgan said was a move to prevent the district from being taken over by the state because of an unexpected shortfall of $4.75 million.
If the district doesn’t address the problem now, the budget shortfall could grow to $15 million by this time next year, said the district’s treasurer, Ryan Ghizzoni.
The layoffs, coupled with 26 retiring teachers who won’t be replaced, will cut $12.5 million from the district’s $91 million budget. Teacher salaries account for more than $39 million of that budget.
Morgan said administrative positions totaling $1 million will be cut, along with $2.2 million in non-certified positions and $250,000 in non-athletic supplemental personnel. The total number of jobs lost with those cuts hasn’t been determined, she said.
Despite the drastic cuts, Morgan said the district will be able to maintain all the required subjects, along with vocational programs, bands, sports, music, physical education, special education and the gifted students program.
The district has been overstaffed because of the previous contract with the Lorain Education Association, which put a ceiling on the number of teaching positions that could be reduced, she said.
Consequently, as students left Lorain schools for charter schools — some 1,500 fewer students are enrolled in the district compared with five years ago — the district had too many teachers, she said.
On Wednesday night, the teachers union approved a new contract that eliminates the ceiling on job cuts, but only for a limited window — two months of this summer, Morgan said.
That language will be restored to the contract before the start of the 2007-08 school year, Morgan said.
If the union had rejected the new contract, the district could have eliminated only 40 teachers’ positions, Morgan said.
Union officials could not be reached for comment Thursday, and past officials declined to comment when reached after the announcement.
Morgan said she could not say just how many positions accounted for the overstaffing, but Lorain County Community College has agreed to help the teachers find new jobs or learn new skills.
The drastic steps were necessary when the district learned this month that a five-year financial projection it received in November 2006 vastly underestimated the financial effect of charter schools on the district.
Previous Lorain Schools Treasurer Jim Estle had projected expenses for purchase services — the charter schools, utilities and transportation — at $16 million. But Ghizzoni and the Ohio Education Association projected the costs at
$21 million, with $8.5 million going to the charter schools.
“We are just reeling from this,” a weary-looking Morgan said Thursday.
Ghizzoni said he didn’t know how his predecessor made the charter-school student projections.
“We get a report every two weeks of what we pay for charter kids,” Ghizzoni said. “Each year, per pupil expenses increase. You take the prior year’s trends and make projections based on those numbers.”
But, he said, the number of charter students always is changing.
“They come and go throughout the school year,” Ghizzoni said.
State funding is currently about $5,500 per student, with more than 1,500 Lorain students attending charter schools, costing the school district $8 million annually, Ghizzoni said.
“It’s very difficult telling people they will not have a job, but we must balance our staff levels to meet our enrollment needs. Anything less would not be responsible to our taxpayers,” Morgan said. “This whole thing will bring us in line with student enrollment.”
The cuts are not being made according only to seniority, she said.
“We are looking at both seniority and certification in making the cuts. We’re into tenured staff; people in positions long-term,” she said.
As an example, one teacher may have seniority over another teacher but not the certification needed to teach a particular class. If a certified teacher is needed to fill a required subject area in a certain location, that person will be retained over the teacher without the necessary certification regardless of length of employment.
Morgan also said that even with the cuts, the student-teacher ratios of 26-to-1 and 28-to-1 will not change.
“Class sizes won’t exceed the maximum,” she said.
However, elementary classroom teachers next fall also will teach the music and physical education classes.
Contact Bette Pearce at 329-7148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.