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March 6, 2013

Southeastern schools to reduce staff

Superintendent: Four teachers’ resignations should balance budget

Southeastern School Corporation board members are aiming to start the next school year with fewer teachers to avoid further deficit spending, according to superintendent John Bevan.

“We’ve had declining enrollment,” Bevan said, “so the net result is we deficit spent in 2012.”

Since the 2007-2008 school year, enrollment has dropped by 91 students over all grade levels, according to the Indiana Department of Education’s Compass database. While numbers rose slightly during the 2010-2011 year, they dropped again to 1,506 students last school year at the district’s two elementaries and one junior-senior high school.

The district’s cash reserves were enough to handle the deficit spending with some left over, Bevan said — “it’s not a ton of money, but it’s enough to cover us.”

However, the school offered senior teachers an incentive if they chose to retire, hoping to reduce staffing levels via attrition rather than a full-fledged reduction in force.

Four teachers have indicated they’ll retire, Bevan said. Their resignations will be formally considered at the April school board meeting.

“That will be enough for us to balance the budget for 2013-14,” he said. Reducing a school’s force by attrition rather than layoffs, or “RIF’ing,” is “more humane,” he added. “Through all of the tough times, we’ve never reduced forces by RIF’ing before.”

Bevan said the school would still continue to fill other positions opening up for various reasons.

“We’re not reducing force by a lot and we will replace the people we need to replace,” he said.

Southeastern currently employs 96 teachers at its three schools. Bevan said the district would likely start in the fall with 92 or 93.

The school corporation won’t be reducing the numbers of its support staff, Bevan said.

Enrollment this fall should be “somewhere in the ballpark of where we are this year,” said Bevan. “I don’t expect another loss of 40 to 50 students, but with open enrollment, you just don’t know.”

Schools in Cass County have agreed that it’s “counterproductive” to accept students from other school districts without good reason, he said, and have refrained from advertising to gain more students. “But things ebb and flow,” he repeated. “You don’t know.”

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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