Fayette superintendent: Staff identified partial solution for $20 million budget cut

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMarch 18, 2014 

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said Tuesday that he will recommend cutting two noninstructional days for staff next school year as part of a planned $20 million budget cut.

Shelton, speaking to reporters after a specially called school board meeting to discuss the budget, said he would ask the board to reduce those days for the 2014-15 budget. The budget will be finalized May 31.

Last month, Shelton said the district had to find ways to cut $20 million, or about 5 percent, from its $433.1 million budget. School employees make up nearly 88 percent of the $433 million budget, Shelton has said. The district has 40,109 students, 5,815 employees and 66 schools and special programs.

The district has hosted forums over the past few weeks to get input from parents, students and staff.

The superintendent said cutting two noninstructional days — times when teachers and staff work, but classes are not in session — was "consistently shared across the board as an idea as opposed to potentially reducing staff."

"That would save us $2 or $3 million dollars," the superintendent said.

Shelton said he would not recommend cutting days when students were scheduled to be in class.

"I would really struggle to recommend to the board that we reduce instructional days because to me that's a direct impact on kids ... reducing days in the classroom doesn't move student achievement forward," he said.

Concerns have been raised at the forums about the district eliminating art, music, and world language programs.

Shelton reiterated Tuesday "that there's never been an intention of eliminating programs. Some programs might be affected as we reallocated resources, but it would be minimal impact."

He said "any kind of staffing cuts would happen through attrition."

Shelton backed away from earlier statements made by district leaders that nontenured teachers would be vulnerable to cuts.

Every year, at least 100 to 200 nontenured teachers are not rehired for a variety of reasons, said Shelton. He said that number might not increase under the budget cuts.

"Our retirements and resignations far exceed the number of staff we need to reduce," said Shelton. "If we lose enough teachers as we expect to through attrition, we won't have to reduce nontenured teachers. It would just be the normal reductions that we see on a regular basis."

Regardless of the cuts that are made, Fayette County School board member Doug Barnett said afterward that he wants the district to close the achievement gap and he wants students to be career- and college-ready.

"We have to be more efficient, we have to be more effective with how we spend our resources and how we use those resources," Barnett said.

Meanwhile, Shelton said he will recommend to the board Monday that the last day of school be June 6, a Friday.

Fayette County has cancelled 13 school days this school year because of snow and ice or cold weather.

Under the current calendar, Shelton said the last day of school would be Wednesday, June 11, as long as the district doesn't miss any more days. But he said he did not think going to school in the second week of June had "real benefit" to students.

Shelton said making June 6 the last day would be contingent on not having any more snow days this school year.

Also, he said "we might have to add some slight time" to the school day to meet minimum state requirements, but it would be less than 15 minutes.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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