Proposal for ORSB FY2011 Budget Adjustments

It’s that time of year again. I submitted this prior to last night’s public forum and was very encouraged to hear some board members took my suggestions, along with others, seriously. Public interest and feedback appears to be at an all time high. That’s a very good thing.

Oak Ridge School Board Members:

With regards to the proposed FY2011 school budget, I understand that the initial projected deficit of $383,564 has been eliminated with the news of our receiving $170,000 per year in Race to the Top funds and the discovery of $283,000 found in a calculation error in Average Daily Attendance figures.

I request that you now focus on preserving the jobs of the 57 teachers and teacher assistants that the administration has recommended cutting in order to save $1,096,301. I propose that it is possible to save these most valuable positions without terminating other employees and without sacrificing the quality of education our students need. My proposed alternative adjustments to the FY 2011 Oak Ridge Schools Budget are as follows:

Reduce various line items by $773,122. This amount reflects a 13% decrease in the nearly $6 million that is appropriated for the following non-instructional positions: Directors, Supervisors, Guidance Counselors, Psychologists, Secretaries, Clerical, Technology Personnel, Accountants, Bookkeepers, Payroll Clerks, and Purchasing Personnel. I am not suggesting that these positions be cut; rather that the correlating salary appropriations be reduced through a combination of attrition and salary cuts. I note that every year, anywhere from 30-40 employees resign, retire, or are non-renewed. To date, it is known that 10 employees will retire and 4 will be let go due to performance issues. None of these employees are part of the proposed 57 cuts.

Reduce Line 71100 449 by $104,259. This amount reflects a 25% reduction in the Textbooks line item. According to Mr. Green, “New textbooks are not required by the state and districts all over opt not to buy new textbooks. There are alternatives such as buying in-class only sets.” If the remaining appropriations are insufficient, perhaps the excess Race to the Top funds can fill the gap.

Reduce multiple lines ending in 195 by $113,400. This amount reflects a 50% reduction in the Substitute Teachers line items. According to Dr. Bailey and Mr. Green, Teacher Assistants function as substitutes in emergency situations. They stated that there is no reason TAs cannot do so on a regular basis.

Reduce multiple lines ending in 355 by $50,000. This amount reflects an elimination of all travel line items except those found under Special Education and Instructional Staff Support which provide for the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, the Director of Pupil Services, teachers, counselors, and coordinators. Most of the eliminated line item explanations are for participation in conferences or workshops and do not directly enhance student learning. Such needs may be met through alternative means such as webinars or teleconferences.

Reduce Line 71150 161 by $10,000. This amount reflects a salary increase proposed for the reclassification of a “para-professional” employee to that of a secretary. As was explained by Ms. Gagliano, the amount of the line item was incorrect and should have been $10,000 more than the $18,200 listed to reflect the salary increase. Given the proposed job cuts and the fact that that so many employees will go without an increase in pay of any kind, increasing a single employee’s pay by over 50% is indefensible.

Reduce Line 72210 196 by $32,000. This amount reflects the annual “Writing Training” provided to teachers. As was pointed out by Mr. Eby, universities teach students to write. I would add that since the majority of our teachers possess Master’s degrees or higher, it should be assumed that they are adept in this skill. If not, they are certainly capable of improving their skill level on their own.

Reduce Line 72810 308 by $10,000. This amount reflects the entire appropriations for consultants retained solely for assistance with technical infrastructure issues. Suggest such matters be resolved by the technical staff for whom over $500,00 is annually appropriated.

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