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Central Staffing Cuts Likely

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School District may lay off 22 teachers and other staff members before the start of classes this fall.

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School District may lay off 22 teachers and other staff members before the start of classes this fall.

Officials sent notices to teachers, classified staff and others last week warning that they will lose their jobs on Aug. 30 if the state's budget picture doesn't improve by then.

Schools and other agencies in Oregon have been asked to slash their 2010-11 budgets by 9 percent because of the state's $577 million shortfall.

Central is projecting $1.35 million in cuts, said Superintendent Joseph Hunter.

The reductions may be softened if the district's teachers and classified employee unions agree to eliminate days from the school calendar.

"We cut in all the flexible places -- travel, supplies -- last year," Hunter said. "We don't have those places to cut that aren't personnel anymore."

Central has roughly 400 employees -- 165 teachers, 185 classified staff, and a balance of district administrators, supervisors and confidential workers.

District administrators and building principals have hashed out a tiered list which prioritizes cuts at two different levels.

The first entails nine teachers, 12 classified employees and half an administrative position that all must be scrapped if no new revenue for school allocations is found before the end of August, said Beau Horn, human resources director.

"Losing nine teachers is devastating," said Cheri Higgins, president of the Central Education Association teachers union, adding more will be lost if retirements aren't filled.

"It is a trend we have seen the last two years that is taking its toll on the morality of teachers, our students and community," she added.

The second tier of reductions is based on an additional shortfall of up to $700,000. Those cuts haven't been put into motion or made public yet, "but are much more unacceptable to all of us," Horn said.

Cutting calendar days is about the only option left for staving off cuts, Hunter said. And unlike neighboring Dallas School District, Central cannot unilaterally reduce days without the consent of the teaching and classified unions, per their contracts.

CEA is bargaining next year's contract and will meet with district officials on July 12 to discuss the calendar issue. Classified leadership has indicated it would follow the teachers' lead as far as giving up days, Horn said.

The district would have to cut 20 calendar days to completely balance the budget and avoid job losses, "but that's not realistic," he added.

A target is between five and 10 days. Eliminating five days would spare four teachers and two classified workers. Higgins said trimming the calendar is "one way to save money" and that the union would consider it.

"CEA members have been willing to cut days when they could see what the savings were actually going to save," she said. "A detailed plan and open communication that supports bringing teachers back to the classroom is always a positive detail."

With Gov. Ted Kulongoski standing pat on his requested 9 percent reduction, and no movement toward an emergency special legislative session or federal stimulus dollars, a $1.35 million reduction seems a certainty for Central, Hunter said.

"This is our best guess, but it's still subject to change," he said, noting September's looming state revenue forecast.

Proposed Cuts

Central School District's proposed "first-tier" reductions for 2010-11:

* All four elementary schools in Monmouth and Independence will lose a teacher. Talmadge Middle School's dean of students will move to a classroom teaching slot, which bumps out a teacher with less seniority.

* Central High will lose a social studies teacher.

* Counseling in the elementary and high schools will be reduced by a position.

* One sixth-grade section at Talmadge will be cut; remaining sixth-grade classrooms will see larger class sizes.

* Voice instruction in the music program will now be shared between the high school and middle school. This means fewer elective periods for things such as drama.

* Part-time counselors in the elementary school will be replaced with specialists hired with pass-through dollars from the Willamette Education Service District.

* Most of the 12 classified personnel that would be laid off are instructional assistants; no cooks, custodians or bus drivers are being cut.

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