Wednesday, March 20, 2013

PCS: Cuts by Attrition?

    It has been reported that the Superintendent and BOE at Potsdam Central are considering cutting teachers in music, math, special education, physical education, and elementary...all through attrition.   The BOE, working with the Superintendent, should have made a plan for what to cut and why.

     Let's face it, cutting by attrition is the easy way out. Happenstance [certain teachers being old enough to retire] is no guiding light for personnel cuts. Planning for the future of the district's children should not be driven by random retirement announcements.
    The need to close a $1.2 million budget gap at the PCSD is surely a significant problem. Are there other options to cutting so many teaching positions?

  ~ Magnet School:  If the plan included looking into making the PCSD a magnet school for both music and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), then it would make no sense to cut music and math teachers...thus diminishing the programs at just the time that they should be shored up. Magnet schools can accept students from outside the district so creating a magnet school could bring students (and the state aid dollars that follows them) to the district.
~ Transportation: At the first public forum, where the public was invited to discuss the district's fiscal problems, the notion of using a private company for transportation was examined. Members of one group wanted to know what savings would be realized if the PCSD went in this direction. Has the financial impact of such a change been discussed by the BOE? Other districts have gone in this direction.

~ Renegotiate Health Insurance Contributions: Have the BOE or Superintendent suggested approaching the teachers' union to see if they will consider contributing more to their health insurance costs? A small sacrifice when dealing with this $5.3 Million expense, might save teachers' jobs and protect student programs. Negotiations can be re-opened at any time if both sides agree. Did anyone even ask?
    For those who think it is not fair to ask for this concession, consider the fact that the PCSD contribution rate to the teachers' retirement system has gone from 2.52% (of total payroll) ten years ago to 16.25%  of total payroll for next year. So, for 2013-14, this will cost the district $1.2 Million. District officials cannot do anything about this huge pension bill but they can approach the union about the $5.3 Million health insurance bill.

~ One less Principal: Can the district get by with two principals? Given that the district is losing its middle school principal, it seems like the right time to consider cutting a principal position and saving a teaching position (and maybe a part-time position, too). Not replacing the middle school principal has been discussed by the BOE. It would take some backbone to make such a cut; the easy decision is to  just lose teaching positions to attrition.

~ Re-configuring AAK: To the credit of the BOE, they have discussed this idea but their decision to send it to committee is the equivalent of burying the idea...death by committee. Board members Stone, Hobbs, and Tubett recognize that the resignation of Principal Cruikshank is dovetailing with on-going Board discussions of reconfiguring AAK. Re-structuring how the PCSD delivers education may be essential if  the district wants to protect the education of students. While many parents are worried about any reconfiguration of AAK, parents in the 1990's were equally convinced that moving 5th grade students from Lawrence Avenue to AAK would result in dire consequences for those students.

    Isn't it time to see the overarching plan driving personnel cuts at the PCSD? Isn't it time to look at big ideas instead of bleeding our teaching retirement at a time?


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