The Ottumwa Courier

March 28, 2013

E-B-F weighs proposed budget cuts

LORI FAYBIK
Ottumwa Courier

EDDYVILLE — The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont School Board began this week to act on recommended budget cuts. The board approved cutting the buildings and trades teacher, a special education teacher and a partial cut for an art teacher. Several support staff positions will be considered at a future meeting.

Superintendent Dean Cook explained to the board that cutting the building and trades teacher would not cut the program. He said the district intends to enter into a 28E sharing agreement with either Ottumwa or Oskaloosa, sending students there for building and trades. In addition, he indicated that the district would consider sending students to Indian Hills Community College for a welding program.

A few rough figures were presented, but it was unclear what the net savings to the district will be in cutting this teacher’s position while adding the costs for the 28E, welding and transportation for students. Drafting and woods classes will most likely be eliminated.

Specialty areas for elementary students will be reduced as the art teacher position is reduced and a music teacher is cut (not through board action but through attrition). The plan is for students to have only one “special” per day, cycling through art, music, physical education and library, going to each activity only once each week.

Curriculum Director Joellen Breon told the board this would allow teachers more time to teach core classes and reduce travel time for teachers shared between buildings.

However, with an approved cut of one special education teacher and a proposal to cut up to 12 para-educators to reduce the special education deficit, the workload for teachers will increase.

In a letter to the board, Eddyville Elementary teachers said, “We are writing to express our grave concern over the budget cuts and how they are being handled.”

Teachers told the board how valuable para-educator positions are to the district, noting that their duties extend beyond playground and recess supervision to helping students with reading and math as well as assisting with testing, assessments and more.

“Loss of direct instruction will have a negative impact on student achievement,” teachers wrote to the board.

“I understand what the state is saying, but these kids need special attention, they need a lot of consistency.  We need to make sure we are doing the right thing for kids,” said board member Dan Hulbert. “I think we can find better places to save money.”

The board expects to consider these additional proposed cuts during its next regular board meeting in April.

This week the board also reviewed a request to fund the junior high school baseball/softball program. The program is a recognized school sport; however, equipment, uniforms, officials, coaching and transportation needs are not funded by the district.

“I’m all for activities, but I’m not going to put activities ahead of education,” Hulbert said. “If we are cutting education, we can’t keep funneling money to sports.”

The board did not act on funding the program, so the district will not provide funds for the program this year. Board members also suggested a future work session to review the program for next year.