December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Schools cutting 7th-grade sports, all librarians, 37 teaching positions and more

The WEHS television program will be among the casualties in the latest round of Elyria school district cuts.

ELYRIA — Another 59 positions — among them teachers, special education instructors and classroom aides — will be eliminated from Elyria Schools next year as the district looks to cut $3 million from its budget after a devastating levy failure last year.

In a district perpetually strapped for cash, cuts are nothing new to Elyria. Five school buildings have closed in the past six years and hundreds of positions have been cut.

But this time the blade will be felt more by parents and students as entire programs — the WEHS television program at the high school and seventh-grade sports teams at the middle schools — will disappear.

“This is not the first time we have cut $3 million,” said board member Ginny Hawes. “And, even though these cuts will feel drastic — and they are, because we are really starting to feel every cut — we are running out of options.”

Superintendent Paul Rigda stepped back from using the term “draconian” as he did last month when talking about what was to come. But he did not deliver the news with any sort of happiness.

“We did save, I think, the heart and soul of the district,” he said. “I know anyone who is getting cut is going to be very angry to hear that. No reduction is an easy reduction, and no one who works here is unimportant, but we have to look at this across the scale.”

The only silver lining to this plan, Rigda said, is that when it is coupled with the plan unveiled earlier this month by Gov. John Kasich, Elyria could see a $6 million carryover by 2017, if everything stays the course from this day forward. Kasich’s plan is proposed to give Elyria more money — $1.6 million next year and $2 million the following year.

“This plan will actually take us to where we would be if we would have passed the levy,” Ridga said referring to the 4.99-mill levy that went down in November. “Yes, it has the same bottom-line effect, but it has a negative effect on the school district because we are truly doing more — with the new standards coming out — with less.”

Rigda said the district will lose 16.5 teachers who teach core subjects that are measured in the high stakes testing — reading, math, science and social studies. Half of those teachers will come from the high school, and at least six will be special education teachers.

In the areas that are not core classes — the electives students take to round out the learning experience — another 21 teachers will be lost.

Family and consumer science classes will be eliminated at the middle school, and one fewer teacher will teach the class at the high school. The WEHS television program at the high school will be cut. A business teacher at the high school will be laid off in addition to all of the media specialists (better known as librarians) in the district.

Three media technicians will be cut.

And, there will be no seventh-grade sports teams.

“But seventh-graders can try out for the eighth-grade teams,” Rigda said. “It will make the competition much tougher, but we just will not be able to offer those sports next year.”

Six staff members will be eliminated in the art, music and physical education classes, although the classes themselves will remain in a limited capacity.

Elyria High School is cutting its academic teams from five to four members, resulting in the elimination of one administrator and one counselor.

Rigda said cutting more administrators is not possible. All people deemed as administration in the district represent just 7 percent of the workforce. There were five administrators cut last year and an additional administrator lost this year.

Thirteen classroom aides, known as paraprofessionals, will be laid off, as well as one secretary, one skilled maintenance worker and five custodians.

Finally, contracts that deal with security services and attendance monitoring through the court system will be reduced by $94,000.

That, coupled with the staff cuts that total nearly $2.8 million, will get the district close to the $3 million mark needed to bring the district out of the red.

“We went with the $3 million in cuts thinking we can get new money in 2014, or the state with the fracking, the casinos and everything they are doing will give us more money after cutting us two years in a row,” Rigda said. “We seem to be right there.”

Treasurer Fred Stephens said the cuts were not just the work of Rigda and him.

“This wasn’t a top-down effort,” he said. “All the principals and administrators sent ideas in over the months and when we showed them this plan, they say their ideas were up there.”

Still, Stephens said the district could end up rehiring 25 to 30 employees before the start of the new school year. Employees will only be brought back if there are retirements or resignations.

Even with all the cuts, Rigda said he believes Elyria will keep striving toward excellence.

“We are reaching a critical tipping point, but we believe even with these cuts we can still deliver quality programming and services,” he said. “We can still get it done and turn out excellent students. Our teachers are the best, are all about the kids and will get the work done.”

Rigda said the route out of trouble for districts like Elyria will be blending curriculum and technology.

“Technology doesn’t replace the teacher, but the computer becomes the teacher’s aide and the lesson becomes more effective and powerful,” Rigda said. “We are soon moving to a bring-your-own technology in schools and wiring buildings to accept the e-readers, the smartphones and all of the technology that our students are already using every day.”

District cuts announced

  • The WEHS television program at the high school
  • Seventh-grade sports teams
  • 16.5 teachers who teach core subjects — 8 will come from the high school, 6 will be special education teachers
  • 21 teachers of electives — Middle school family and consumer science classes will be eliminated, 1 fewer teacher will teach those classes at EHS, 1 high school business teacher
  • All librarians
  • Three media technicians will be cut
  • Six staff members will be eliminated in art, music and physical education classes
  • One EHS administrator and one counselor
  • 13 classroom aides will be laid off
  • One secretary
  • One skilled maintenance worker
  • Five custodians
  • Security services and attendance monitoring contracts will be reduced by $94,000

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.