Lawrence School Board members question proposed cuts in administration and other staffing – The Lawrence Times

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Cuts to administration that did and did not make recommendations for consideration by the Lawrence School Board sparked questions from board members Tuesday night during their budget work session.

The district administrators recommended a restructuring of the administration; however, they advise against a 5% reduction for administrative staff earning $100,000 or more, which would save approximately $169,600.

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The district faces an estimated budget shortfall of between $3.2 million and $3.85 million, though school board members said they plan to cut about $7 million to provide staff increases and replenish depleted reserve funds. On Tuesday, Executive Director of Finance Cynde Frick said that with an estimated loss of funding due to declining enrollment, as well as increases in property/liability insurance and utility costs, the district will have to very probably save between $3.62 and $4.27 million.

School board member Andrew Nussbaum questioned why the 5% cut was on the list of nine potential cuts the trustees recommended against, as opposed to the list of 23 they favored.

The questions surrounding administration and the budget come less than a month after the school board learned from a study by the Kansas School Boards Association that the 18 largest districts in Kansas by enrollment, Lawrence — with a enrollment of 11,150 K-12 students and 20 central office administrators—has the third-highest administrator-to-student ratio.

School board vice president Shannon Kimball said the position in question includes not only district office administrative staff, but also building managers and more.

“I think that, to me, is why he shouldn’t be on the list,” she said.

Kimball also said that if building managers were removed from that position, the savings would be “significantly lower,” which is why the district chose not to recommend it. Nussbaum asked district staff to provide more information in a Friday report to the board that will also include more information about the library’s cutbacks to media specialists.

Board member Kelly Jones asked for further clarification regarding the $400,000 administrative restructuring recommended by district staff. She asked staff to provide further information “whether or not … there is not a deeper reduction that can occur there to compensate for some of these other changes”.

The council had chosen to remove an item from the list of potential cuts that sought to cut clubs and activities like the Novice Band/Orchestra, the All-Town Choir and more. They have decided to put discussion on scrapping the women’s gymnastics program on hold until they receive the results of an ongoing Title IX evaluation. In total, that’s about $41,000 in cuts that board members don’t want to make; however, if all other reductions remained as proposed, the savings would still be approximately $6.41 million.

Jones expressed concerns about the potential loss of personnel. She said ‘restructuring’ in these situations usually means downsizing, but ‘one of the things we’ve talked about with our unions is looking to minimize the number or eliminate job losses altogether for our current employees.

“…I’m worried about retention, to be quite frank.”

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Director of Studies Patrick Kelly acknowledged the desire for clarity, but said the district has a negotiated downsizing agreement it must follow.

“So we don’t know yet who’s going to resign or retire or all of those things, so it’s a bit difficult to provide some of that clarity that I think some people were probably hoping for,” he said. .

Kelly echoed Jones’ concern about retention.

“Every time we have these discussions, we are going to lose staff. We lost one today,” he said.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis said the process could be similar to what the district did with Kennedy Elementary’s closure.

“There is a process already in place for resignations and retirements, and we will seek to place these people based on their certification,” he said. “So I mean, we can’t say we’re going to guarantee that X number of people will be in their jobs, but through normal attrition – that is, resignations and retirements – we think we can put people in positions.”

Later in the meeting, Nussbaum asked about Articles 8 and 20, which recommend staff reductions at the secondary level. Cynthia Johnson, executive director of inclusion, engagement and belonging for the district, said staff would first consider combining or reducing low-enrollment courses such as French and German in based on student course requests for the fall.

Nussbaum, who worked for several years in special education in the district, also raised concerns about a line item that would restructure staffing for an estimated $172,862. He said he would like to know more about it, “especially with the importance of special education in our district.”

Kevin Harrell, executive director of student services and special education, said two vacancies in special education may remain vacant. Gifted education could also be modified to be more effective.

Nussbaum also expressed concerns about Post 21, which would cut custodial staff, among other posts, for an estimated savings of $384,661. He recognized the work that the guards do in the buildings of the district.

“I just want it on record that I’m concerned that the guarding staff will be even more reduced, consolidated even more based on the buildings and what I’ve heard from the staff.”

Kelly explained that the restructuring “could look like a number of things – one being the night watchman and the sharing of staff. And so there are a few different scenarios that we can follow down this path, but, again, it there are details here that – we will have to cross this bridge when we get there.

The board will have to make final decisions on all positions at its next meeting on Monday, March 28. Council members will also hear public comments at this meeting. There was no public comment at Tuesday’s special meeting.

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Emma Bascom (her), journalist, can be reached at ebascom (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about his work for The Times here. Check out his staff biography here.

— Mackenzie Clark contributed to this article.

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