Source: Sherman Publications

Parents urge caution in teacher-cut plan

by Wendi Reardon

March 02, 2011

Clarkston teachers bear the brunt of budget cuts, with $4.9 million out of $6.3 million slated for the classroom.

Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock presented a portion of the cuts for the 2012 fiscal year, part of his two-year plan to balance the district's budget to the school board, Monday.

Pamela Koczak, a Bailey Lake Elementary parent, said she was concerned with class sizes, especially with 34 students in one fourth grade classroom.

"The teacher is not able to get to know them," Koczak said. "Secondly, 34 bodies in one classroom is confining. Students are underserved and teachers overworked. Keep it simple and support what we know."

The plan does not take into consideration Gov. Rick Snyder's budget plan to cut $470 per student. With 8,085 students, the plan would mean another $3.8 million cut for Clarkston.

Rock said he will wait until state funding is finalized and make adjustments then.

Administrators will meet with Clarkston Education Association and other district labor groups on Wednesday to work out classroom cuts. However, cuts for instructional aide, clerical, and other non-classroom personnel are detailed in the plan.

The plan for 2011-2012 includes cutting elementary instructional aide hours by 38 percent, saving $159,000.

Jessica Cameron, Independence Elementary kindergarten teacher and Clarkston resident, opposed the cut.

"Safety and instruction are the issues," Cameron added. "Instructional aides are needed. Allow us to keep doing what we are doing. I know it is a business, but know the impact on all of our younger children."

Students need to be watched every moment and directed or they will lose their focus, she said.

Administration costs are expected to drop $20,000 as two elementary principals retire this year. The savings will be in the replacementsí salaries.

More staff cuts will come in secondary clerical positions, eliminating two 42-week positions, from Clarkston High School and Sashabaw Middle School, saving $61,109.

Elementary-school cuts also include three media specialists, as well as part-time music and art teachers, totaling $227,800.

These programs will still continue with rearranging of staff at the schools, said Shawn Ryan, Deputy Superintendent.

International Baccalaureate at Clarkston High School faces $120,000 in cuts, including software and technology purchases, teaching supplies, field trips, textbooks, and training. The IB program currently has 60 students.

Cuts to transportation include fewer bus stops and supplies, no doubling back, and gas money for extracurricular field trips such as band and choir camps, for a total of $55,000.

Reducing bus stops was a safety concern for driver Mike Morris.

"Why do we have to be cut before you know what you are going to get from the other groups," said Morris. "I think it is a little premature. We had no input at all. I am sad to hear about the cuts because of the negotiating last year."

Bus drivers accepted a $302,942 cut last year.

Financial director Bruce Beamer said transportation cuts are needed as gas prices increase, and positions would not be cut but hours probably would.

Rock will also meet with Northern Oakland County Superintendents to discuss shared services, he said.