Stillwater News Press

Local News

March 8, 2014

Stillwater school panel recommends cuts

STILLWATER, Okla. — A funding shortfall and the depletion of a carryover balance that will require a $1.8 million reduction in the budget will result in restructuring and staff cuts at Stillwater Public Schools.

Superintendent Ann Caine sent a lengthy, detailed email to parents outlining recommendations set out by a committee of district administrators.

Administration officials met recently with building principals for a roundtable discussion about potential budget cuts, and a committee was selected to review proposed cuts and make recommendations. The district’s 900 employees also were asked in a survey for suggestions on how the district could cut costs.

“Unfortunately, with our continued decrease in state funding for public education, Stillwater Public Schools is forced to make tough decisions to maintain quality education for our students,” Caine said. “Stillwater Public Schools has had an increase in student growth, yet the funding is still below 2008 levels.”

A five-point plan was proposed by the committee. The Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 24 at Stillwater High School to vote on the proposals. The board will meet in regular session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Administration Building, 314 S. Lewis.

The district committee is recommending a cut of $300,000 by going to a modified block schedule at Stillwater High School. Caine said the block schedule allows more effective use of staff and would realize savings by reducing at least six teaching positions.

The committee also is recommending a realignment of grades at school sites beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The alignment would result in the elementary schools having prekindergarten through fourth-grade students, the middle school having fifth- and sixth-grade students, the junior high having seventh- and eighth-grade students and the high school having ninth- through 12th-grade students.

Caine said having ninth-graders at the high school allows more efficient use of staffing and transportation.

The district anticipates growth at the elementary schools in the near future, and the most cost-efficient way to prepare for that growth without having to build another elementary school is to reconfigure the grades.

“Among many changes is a plan to be proactive in our ability to handle additional student growth in the future without the addition of a seventh elementary,” Caine said.

The committee also is recommending staffing cuts of $868,500, which includes eight certified staff positions and 23 support staff positions as well as $263,700 in administration/operational cuts, including shortening several administrative contracts, eliminating administrative stipends, eliminating one administrative position and consolidating responsibilities. The committee also is recommending the elimination of $508,800 in instructional items.

Caine said the district is working with staff to eliminate positions using attrition rather than Reduction-In-Force.

Each of the district’s principals were involved in the talks, and the administration is asking parents to direct questions to their principal by Wednesday.

“I realize the budget reduction process is going to be stressful for students, staff and SPS families as final decisions are made during the next few months,” Caine wrote in an email to parents. “Please be confident that we are carefully considering each option and are keeping the best interests of the students that we are here to educate in the forefront of each decision.”

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