Meadville Tribune

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May 10, 2013

Retirements, not furloughs, to save PENNCREST $650K

MEADVILLE — With the deadline for putting a 2013-14 budget in place still seven weeks away, PENNCREST School Board is mulling the possibility of saving $650,000 during the coming year by reducing the cost of the district’s professional staff.

A report presented by Jason Bakkus, who chairs the board’s personnel subcommittee, during a recent special budget session outlines an approach relying on retirements to close the gap. In addition to Bakkus, the subcommittee consists of board members Carole Jones and Trudy Whitman.

“The beauty of this is that it doesn’t allow any furloughs for teachers,” Superintendent Connie Youngblood told the Tribune Thursday. “It’s the best we can do while maintaining all our programs, which is what we’re trying to do — in a cost-effective way.”

Whitman agrees. “We’ve had 21 or 22 retirements,” she said Thursday. “Now is the time to start reconfiguring our staff. Down the road, we don’t want to have to start getting rid of positions or employees. Now’s the time — we have this opportunity. We need to look at what we have and how we can reconfigure what we’re doing.”

The district consists of one elementary and one secondary school in each of three attendance areas — Cambridge Springs, Maplewood and Saegertown.

Reducing professional staff

The proposed changes will reconfigure the district’s art, library, health/physical education, technology and guidance programs.

n Art — At the present time, the district’s art department includes a total of 5.5 teachers, 1.5 teachers assigned to Saegertown Junior-Senior High School and two each to Cambridge Springs and Maplewood high schools. After the reconfiguration, that number would be reduced by one to a total of 4.5 — 1.5 art teachers in each high school.

n Libraries — The district currently has one certified full-time librarian in each of its six schools. After the reconfiguration, there would be one certified full-time librarian in each attendance area; each librarian would split time between the elementary and the secondary facility.

“We’ve had some retirements in the library department, so it’s time to take a look at what we do with that,” Youngblood said. “All six libraries will remain open, but students will access the library in a different way.”

At the elementary level, for example, the school week currently includes one period each day devoted to a “special” activity. The proposed reconfiguration would eliminate library as a special, reducing the total number to four. Under the new plan, the specials will be physical education, art, music and technology, each attended on a four-day rotation.

n Health/physical education — The district currently has a health teacher rotating through all three attendance areas, spending one-third of the year in each one. “That position will be eliminated,” Youngblood said. “The time to do that is now because we had a health/physical education retirement so there’s a place for that individual to go.”

n Technology — By eliminating the rotating health teacher, the district will be able to add a technology teacher, allowing a tech teacher to be assigned to each of the elementary schools. With that change, the technology special will be expanded to a full year of instruction with the same teacher instead of two teachers each leading each school’s tech specials for one-third of the year.

“This is a more efficient way to delivery technology instruction, especially as we move toward children having an iPad,” Youngblood said. They’ll have the same teacher, where before they had two tech teachers rotating through. It’s easier for the teacher as well, not having to learn three schools of kids. It’s more efficient.”

n Guidance — The district’s two guidance retirees will not be replaced, Youngblood explained. Instead, there will be two guidance counselors in each attendance area and one “floater.”

At the current time, plans call for one guidance counselor for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and one guidance counselor for students in grades nine through 12 in each attendance area. In addition, one transition guidance counselor, serving grades seven and eight, would rotate through the three attendance areas.

The board’s next special session devoted to the budget is scheduled for May 28 at 7 p.m. in the district administration office in Saegertown.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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