September 19, 2014

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Lorain Schools cutting 182 employees

LORAIN — The slow, painful bleed of Lorain Schools continued Thursday with the announcement of 182 layoffs that are part of $7.4 million in cuts to eliminate a $12 million deficit.

“This is a major impact on people’s lives,” an emotional interim Superintendent Ed Branham told Board of Education members at a special meeting. “We’re impacting families and their livelihoods.”

The layoffs take effect at the end of the school year in June. Among the layoffs are 120 teachers, and 138 of the 182 staff being laid off are paid from the general fund, with 44 paid with federal taxpayer grant money. The identities of those being laid off are expected to be announced at the board’s April 26 meeting.

Board members also are expected to announce at the meeting when they plan to propose a levy to eliminate the remainder of the deficit. Treasurer Dale Weber said the district will be out of general fund money by the end of the year.

Board members are considering a 1 percent earned income tax or a property tax. The levy could be on the ballot for a special election in August or on the November ballot or both. Voters have not approved a levy increase since 1992. Even if a levy passes, the district is likely to go into fiscal emergency next year and be taken over by a state-appointed commission.

Besides a lack of local money, the cuts are in response to shrinking state taxpayer money and enrollment, as well as increased competition for students from charter schools and from open enrollment. The layoffs have been in the works for months, but board members said that didn’t make them any less painful.

“We have no choice,” board member Tony Dimacchia said. “We have to make recommendations of bad options for the city.”

Dimacchia said the district, which receives about $5,700 in state money per student, has lost 1,374 students since the 2006-07 school year, costing it about 7.8 million in revenue. He said that Lorain is the 15th largest school district in Ohio, but has the third-smallest tax base in Northeast Ohio and one of the higher poverty rates in the state.

“We have to cut our education system and sacrifice our students’ education and their futures because we don’t have enough money,” Dimacchia said. “Eventually, we have to pass a levy. That’s really the only option. We are almost at bare minimum.”

In other business

  • Board members approved a four-year school redistricting plan in response to dropping enrollment and construction of the new Lorain High School, which is expected to open in 2016. Beginning in August, ninth-graders will attend Southview Middle School, while 10th- through 12th-graders will attend the former Southview High School. All middle school students will attend Gen. Johnnie Wilson and Longfellow middle schools. Branham said parents can apply for transfers, and community meetings about redistricting and layoffs will be held next month and in May.
  • n Members of the search committee for a new superintendent were announced. They are board President Tim Williams and board member Mitchell Fallis, Mayor Chase Ritenauer, Lorain High School Principal Diane Conibear, Longfellow teacher Robert Davila, Admiral Ernest J. King Elementary School teacher Mirina Jones, parent Robbie Sand and the Rev. Marilyn Parker-Jeffries of the New Creation Baptist Church. Branham will be a non-voting member.

“We tried to get as much diversity representation as we could,” Williams said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.


Download the report.