Upper Arlington News

Board of Education

Last in, first out: 29 teachers won't return


The budget axe fell on staff members at Upper Arlington City Schools Monday, April 15, as the board of education decided not to renew contracts for 29 teachers hired over the past two years.

District leaders said the district will operate with approximately 45 fewer staff members next school year -- deep cuts that will make an impact.

"These are tough cuts because they are flesh and blood," Superintendent Jeff Weaver said at the board meeting.

He said some of the eliminations have come through retirements, resignations and leaves of absence, but a majority of the eliminations are from non-renewals and reductions in force of four-tenths of full-time teaching positions.

He said the cuts are necessary in order to cut $6 million in operating expenses over the next two years.

"Tonight's actions will represent approximately $2.5 million in one year, or approximately $5 million over the next two years in cuts to district personnel," he said.

One administrator and five teachers who were employed in a retire-rehire capacity also recently tendered their resignations, he said.

"The upcoming 2013-14 school year will have no former district retirees employed in a retire-rehire capacity," Weaver said.

Suzanne Kotch, co-president of the Upper Arlington Education Association, said the teachers union is "concerned about the loss of all of these jobs."

"With the reduction of nearly 5 percent of our teaching staff, we are concerned about the impact on our students," she said.

Weaver said voters' rejection of a 5.8-mill operating levy in November 2012 made the budget cuts necessary in order to keep the district's next levy request -- expected to be on the ballot this November -- as low as possible.

"When the operating levy loss results were analyzed, the most frequent argument we heard by those who did not vote for the levy was that our cost per pupil was out of line and too high," he said.

The district's cost per pupil was listed at $15,172 last school year by the Ohio Department of Education.

Members of Educate UA, the citizens group that opposed the school levy with the motto, "It's OK to Vote No," brought up the district's per-pupil costs in campaign literature, comparing them to Olentangy schools' per-pupil costs of $9,465.

Weaver said the cost per pupil is largely driven by labor costs, which make up 80 to 85 percent of a district's general fund budget.

"In making these personnel cuts, the district's administration labored long and hard over tough decisions that have not been made to such a great extent in this district in the last 20 years or longer," he said.

"We are trying, under difficult circumstances, to make decisions that will be fiscally responsible and yet serve the best interests of our students, programs and services."

He said between 15 and 20 teachers will be transferred to different assignments next school year to accommodate the loss of staff and positions. Staff seniority will be a consideration in those transfers, along with certification and teachers' abilities to teach multiple subjects.

Weaver said if there is additional attrition through retirements and resignations before the start of the 2013-14 school year, then some staff members who lost their jobs because of budget cuts could be rehired.

Board President Robert Arkin said this is the second time in his 12 years on the school board that he has had to approve operating budget cuts.

"It saddens me to have to go through a second round of budget cuts," he said. "We hope that as time goes by, that things will improve. We also look toward November and hope the community will support the schools."