Public reaction is running strongly against Cobleskill-Richmondville’s budget-cutting even as the school district prepares for further trimming this week.
Letters to the editor and Facebook postings criticize officials for proposing to cut teachers, programs and extra-curricular activities, all of which became public at the school board meeting February 28.
C-R is making the cuts to compensate for a nearly $4 million reduction in state aid next school year. The cuts announced February 28––more than 20 teachers, modified sports, several varsity sports and other programs––account for only $2 million.
More proposed cuts are planned for the March 14 meeting. Expecting a crowd, C-R has moved the meeting from the Golding School library to the Golding auditorium.
“And there will be ample opportunity for people to voice their thoughts,” Superintendent Lynn Macan said Monday.
Not surprised by the criticism, she explained how administrators and the school board decided on the cuts.
Officials based cuts to the teaching staff on seniority, Ms. Macan said.
One teacher whose job is being eliminated is music teacher Kevin Oates. He’s received much public support from the public because not only is Mr. Oates a popular teacher, he’s also the only strings teacher.
Losing him could mean the end of C-R’s orchestra, a popular offering.
C-R must cut a music teacher, Ms. Macan said, because the district will have five fewer sections in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Also, in the middle school, students in grades six and seven have been divided into two groups or teams. There will be only one team in each grade next year.
Because the elementary and middle schools are contracting, there’s a need for fewer music classes, Ms. Macan said.
Since Mr. Oates has the least seniority, his job was targeted.
Still, strings and orchestra may remain, Ms. Macan said.
“It is possible a different music teacher with some degree of expertise with strings could take over,” she said. “But it’s not their specialty.”
Although letter-writers criticized C-R, they also blasted the state for cutting aid severely. Several urged residents to contact legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo to restore at least some of the reduced aid.
If the state does that, the school board would examine the four areas where cuts were made to see what to put back in the budget, Ms. Macan said.
Those four areas are the core academic programs; enhancement programs, such as electives and extra-curricular; whole child support, which includes counselors, social workers and others; and operations, which includes food service, maintenance and transportation.
Some writers have proposed fundraising in the community to return modified and varsity sports and orchestra.
Such fundraising is possible, with a group targeting its donation for a specific purpose, Ms. Macan said.
But she wasn’t sure of details such as timing and whether further costs could be trimmed by having parents and coaches drive students to away games and matches.
“We still have to do some research on that,” she said.
Board members will consider cuts in operation and maintenance at Monday’s upcoming meeting.
Other issues that “will take time to figure out” are C-R’s debt structure, insurance savings and competitive pricing on health insurance, Ms. Macan said.
Board members are still looking at a cut or cuts in administration, she added, and “discussions are under consideration” on a wage and salary freeze.