CLARK COUNTY — Greater Clark County Schools is considering plans to cut about $6 million from the budget, which could include the closing of two Jeffersonville schools.
A slideshow with the district’s proposal for budget cuts was published online this week in the board agenda for a Thursday work session. The administration will discuss more about the cost reduction plan at the public work session.
Here is what is in the slideshow:
• The district’s goal is to cut a minimum of $3 million from the education fund and a minimum of $2.5 million from the operations fund.
• The plan for education fund reductions includes the closing of Bridgepoint Elementary and Corden Porter in Jeffersonville and changes to special area staffing for art, music, PE and media/tech.
• For cuts to the operations fund, the district is considering reducing 12 bus routes with a “two-tier system” and making adjustments to some special education routes and outsourcing custodial/maintenance services.
Greater Clark has “been in deficit spending for the past several years, which has depleted the district’s cash balances and rainy day fund.” The cost reduction plan would move the district out of deficit spending and allow the district to form a cash balance of 8% to 10% in each fund.
“These reductions are proposed without sacrificing the level of support for staff and students as well as maintaining optimal educational programming for our students.”
Implementation to begin July 1
The implementation of these cost reductions would begin July 1 of this year. The administration will ask for the board’s approval of the plan at the Jan. 26 board meeting.
In a letter sent to parents and staff last week, Greater Clark Superintendent Mark Laughner said the administration has been conducting internal meetings with staff who would be directly affected by these budget cuts.
Laughner said in the letter that Thursday’s work session will be informational only, and there will be no action items. He said the administration does not plan to comment until after Jan. 14.
Renee Markoski, executive assistant to the superintendent, also told the News and Tribune Tuesday that Laughner will not comment until after the work session.
Greater Clark board members Janelle Fitzpatrick and Teresa Bottorff-Perkins declined to comment on the proposed budget cuts at this time. Board member Keith Freeman also declined when reached Tuesday afternoon, noting that he was not sworn in as a new board member until the Tuesday night meeting.
Board members John Buckwalter, Katie Hutchinson and Bill Hawkins had not responded by Tuesday night to the News and Tribune’s requests for comment.
More details of cuts outlined
The proposed plan for closing Bridgepoint says students at the elementary would be moved to Franklin Square Elementary and Riverside Elementary, and current staff would be “proportionally” moved to Franklin Square and Riverside.
The closing of Bridgepoint, a Title I school of more than 300 students, could potentially result in cost savings of about $800,000 per year.
The proposal says the closing of Corden Porter, a downtown Jeffersonville school of more than 40 students in grades 4-12, could result in cost savings of $500,000 per year.
The high school program at Corden Porter would be moved to Jeffersonville High School, the middle school program would be moved to River Valley Middle School and the middle school alternative education program would be moved to Parkview Middle School.
This cut would lead to the elimination of multiple certified and classified positions at both schools, and affected staff members would be “reassigned through attrition,” the proposal said.
The proposed plans for related arts include a “new staffing formula” that would reduce costs by about $630,000 a year. Other items in the proposal for educational fund costs include a reduction in the number of para positions in Greater Clark for $300,000 annual cost savings and a reduction in certified positions through attrition for $347,000 cost savings.
The reduction in 12 bus routes and adjustment to special education routes could lead to $495,000 in annual savings.
The plan proposes guaranteeing a request for proposal for outsourcing all maintenance and custodial services for $800,000 in savings.
The detailed proposal also includes a number of other cost savings to both educational and operation funds.
Reactions from parents, staff member
Emili Mayberry is the parent of a second grader at Bridgepoint Elementary, and she went to the school herself as a child. She said she believes closing the school is the wrong move.
She said her son, Jackson, has mental and speech delays due to hearing problems he had as an infant, and he has been attending the school this past school year, where he has been in special programs.
She loved the school when she went there, and the teachers and staff have helped her son make significant progress, she said.
“I would hope that they would consider not closing the school,” she said. “There are remarkable teachers and staff there. They are a very caring school as a whole. They bring so much happiness to my child.”
The News and Tribune also spoke with a custodian at a Greater Clark school, who wished to remain anonymous. She said she was told in an internal meeting last week that custodians and maintenance have not been guaranteed to keep their jobs, and they would have to apply for a job with the company Greater Clark contracts.
She said losing Greater Clark’s health insurance is a concern, as well as whether staff will be paid for the sick days, vacation and personal time they now have available.
The custodian said she is frustrated about a lack of transparency regarding Greater Clark’s budget cuts.
Angela Siler Snelling is the mother of a seventh-grader who attends Corden Porter.
Her son has severe emotional issues, she said, but the school has provided him with plenty of support.
“He gets a lot of one-on-one help [and] is not made fun of,” she said. “Closing it will just make him a small fish in a big pond. My heart is broken and I am scared for my child.”
Donna Reed is the mother of two kids at Riverside Elementary, and she joined a group of other parents in creating a petition that calls for at least three potential plans for cost savings to be considered, saying she would like to know what other options might be available.
Reed is concerned to see the school closings and related arts changes outlined in the plan, and she wants the district to consider input from parents on these issues. She is also concerned about how quickly these decisions will be made.
“I don’t feel it is enough time for input from parent groups, and there’s only one proposal presented,” she said. “We feel there are other areas they could target that maybe would represent parental values more strongly.”
Kristi Geary is the mother of a second-grader at Bridgepoint, as well as a middle schooler who previously attended the school.
She feels the plan is a “cheap and easy way out,” and she is also concerned about the impact to arts programming at Greater Clark.
She is worried about the closing of a small, close-knit school where “every single person in the building knows who our kids are,” she said.
“If take you take the kids and send 200 to one school and 100 to another, all those kids in those schools lose out on that and they become one of 500 faces running around the building that nobody knows, and that’s not fair to any of them,” Geary said.
‘It’s going to be tough’
The cost-reduction plan was not discussed in detail at Tuesday’s Greater Clark board meeting and board of finance meeting, but Mark Felix, president of the Greater Clark Education, discussed the proposed budget reductions during public comments.
He said he understands that “many items beyond the control of this board and administration have put us where we are today being inadequately funded,” but he is concerned about how the plans would affect related arts programming and staffing.
“Tonight, I would like this board to consider what is most important — educating our kids or balancing a budget,” he said. “It’s going to be tough.”