Stillwater News Press

April 21, 2010

Area school officials tighten belts while waiting for state funding news

By Sarah Morris
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — School officials are preparing for the worst as they await word on state aid.

Glencoe Superintendent John Lazenby said the board of education will discuss laying off a seventh-grade teacher in a special meeting Tuesday night.

“You prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Lazenby said. “You can only spend what you got so you have to be frugal.”

Glencoe officials also are looking at the temporary contracts of two elementary teachers, a middle school teacher, an art teacher and a librarian. A decision concerning those positions has not been made.

Lazenby said the school system would be OK and probably only need the one layoff for now. If approved, the cut position would free up about $32,000, which is the base salary for an elementary teacher.

The layoff is one of about 5,000 a state education official warned legislators of Monday.

Education Department Chief of Staff Lealon Taylor said a $244 million, or 10 percent, state aid cut equates to about 5,000 teacher salaries, although he acknowledged it’s likely that fewer than 5,000 teachers will lose their jobs.

Taylor was among state education officials who met with the House budget panel to say how they would deal with the cut. He said on average, teacher salaries make up about 85 percent of a local district’s budget.

“It’s a moving target,” Stillwater Chief Finance Officer Phillip Storm said.

Storm said state funding is constantly changing and the Stillwater school system is preparing a plan to cut $2 million, or 6 percent, from next year’s budget. However, Storm said the plan is still being worked on. No details could be given until school officials talked to the board of education.

Carney Superintendent Dewayne “Bo” Osborn said he has heard of budget cuts anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent. His school system is working to slash its budget down as much as it can which includes monitoring the air conditioning bill and spending.

Perkins-Tryon Public Schools could lose $400,000 if a 10-percent cut happens. Superintendent James Ramsey said he plans to present a proposal on how to cut back at the May 3 board meeting. It does not include layoffs and the school system rehired its certified staff in April.

Ramsey said this proposal has $75,000 that could be slashed by decreasing the $24,000 each principal receives to buy needed items and the $10,000-12,000 library budget as well as a one-year freeze on the annual $40,000 technology update that rotates among school sites.

Cushing schools cut just under 6 percent of its budget this year.

The school system is decreasing its staff by not replacing teachers that are either leaving or retiring, Superintendent Koln Knight said.

Carney school officials don’t know if they will have to cut teachers.

“Right now, we’re looking into that. We do not have to rehire teachers until the second Monday in June,” Osborn said.

Oak Grove schools may drop two of its four teachers aide positions. Officials don’t plan to lay off any of its 12 certified instructors.

“We are already scaled down as far as you can get,” Superintendent Mike Wayland said.

The teacher aide positions are paid on an hourly basis. Wayland said it is a decision he will not make until the fall.

Morrison Superintendent Jay Vernon said no cuts are expected at his school system after two high school teachers were laid off last year.

The district has 43 certified instructors to cover about 549 students. Vernon said students continue to enroll.

“Our elementary and middle schools are growing like crazy and our high school has been dropping,” Vernon said. “We’ve graduated our smallest classes and we are replacing them with larger middle school classes.”

In Pawnee, Superintendent Ned Williams said the district does need to reduce its 62 certified teachers by one. He hopes to negate a layoff through either increased enrollment or a teacher either retiring or moving.

The school system lost $156,282 in state aid from August to March. Williams said school officials are waiting to get a more accurate figure of next year’s state aid before they finalize a budget. The district is also on a spending freeze for anything that does not directly benefits its students and will cut activity trips and reduce bus routes by one next fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.