The elimination of more than 300 jobs, shortening the school day, dropping middle-school sports and ending all high-school transportation - including for charter and private schools - is on the table to help Columbus schools close a $25 million budget shortfall for next year.
Eliminating more than 300 jobs, shortening the school day, dropping middle-school sports and ending all high-school transportation — including for charter and private schools — are all on the table to help Columbus City Schools close a $25 million budget shortfall for next year.
Superintendent Gene Harris offered a menu of $29 million in possible cuts last night, but the school board refused to give her the final say on what is cut, something that is typically permitted under the district’s “policy governance.” The board called a special meeting for Monday evening to debate the cuts.
The board also passed a resolution opposing any move to eliminate the elected school board or diminish its power, a measure aimed at Mayor Michael B. Coleman and his Education Commission. Board President Carol Perkins said after the meeting that there have been “some discussions about another governance model,” and that “I have been approached (about it), yes.”
Perkins couldn’t say specifically what new models are contemplated or how they differ from the currently elected seven-member school board. That would be debated at a meeting of the mayor’s Education Commission on governance and accountability later this month, she said.
“There is going to be a discussion in terms of governance models,” Perkins said.
The board removed language asking Coleman to clarify the role of the commission, which board members feared was losing its focus. Perkins said Coleman clarified that role in his State of the City address last month.
Because the district didn’t get a tax levy approved last year, it needs to cut $25 million to get through next school year, Harris said. In June, she said she supported waiting until 2013 for a levy, after a citizens panel voted 8-2 to reject a proposal for a November 2012 ballot question.
But by last night, Harris said she needed to know almost immediately what cuts the board wanted, “or at least give me the flexibility to get to $25 million” in cuts by herself.
No way, board members said.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable even discussing it tonight,” member Mike Wiles responded, noting that he was seeing the list for the first time.
Board member Bryan O. Steward said the list seemed to spare Downtown administrators from cuts. Steward said an even distribution of cuts would be important to “show leadership.”
Harris, who will leave her job in a little more than three months, said she doesn’t “feel comfortable” reorganizing the senior administrative staff right before a new superintendent takes over. The new superintendent “may tell you they need more people” in those posts, she said.
Board Vice President W. Shawna Gibbs said she was in no way prepared to make a decision last night, but she called for “shared sacrifice.”
The list of proposed cuts includes:
• $8.3 million by eliminating a period from the middle- and high-school day and allowing the elimination of 79 high-school teaching positions and 24 middle-school teaching positions.
• $4.2 million by ending busing for all high-school students, including nondistrict students. Such a cut “severely impacts the ability to support parental school choice and meet our students’ educational goals at (the) high school level,” was the impact listed. Harris said she doesn’t support this cut, as it “would cause a level of chaos in our city.”
• $2.3 million by eliminating 25 custodians and an undisclosed number of substitute custodians.
• $1.4 million by cutting 95 instructional aides.
• $1.2 million by cutting 16 skilled-trades positions, such as carpenters.
• $506,000 by dropping all middle-school extracurricular activities, including sports.
Other proposed cuts: student COTA passes, except for internships; all field-trip transportation; the ROTC program; and 24 English-as-a-second-language assistants.