Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Harrisburg . . . Where’s the Light at the End of the Tunnel for School Districts and Taxpayers?

At TESD’s Budget Workshop this week, we heard the words ‘demotion’ and ‘furlough’ offered by Superintendent Dan Waters as possibilities to close the district’s $3.5 million shortfall. Although admittedly I had not heard of using the ‘demotion’ concept as a cost-cutting budget measure, apparently the Spring-Ford Area school board ‘has’ and they ‘will’!

As taxpayers in the T/E School District listened to members of the school board and administration explain in meticulous detail the district finances, over in Limerick, the Spring-Ford Area School Board struggled with some hard choices to close their $11.3 million deficit. Not a publicly favored cost-cutting measure, the board voted to terminate 24 custodial jobs. Out-sourcing the custodian services will save the district $1 million in salaries and benefits. Does this cost-saving measure sound familiar? It should, TESD school board is considering out-sourcing custodial services to save $900K.

In addition to the custodial staff cuts, Spring-Ford area school board voted to cut 30 instructional assistant and one technology support assistant jobs, bringing the total loss of jobs in the district to 55. The school board voted to use the ‘demotion’ option to lower costs by reducing the Spring City Elementary School principal (who also serves as supervisor of staff development) to the position of part-time principal.

Under this form of demotion, the cost-savings is a salary reduction from $112,607 to $56,350. I understand that using ‘demotion’ to reduce work hours is not reflective of an individual employee’s performance, but the word has a real ‘negative’ spin. Although apparently legal to demote the position, reducing an elementary school principal to a 2-1/2 day work week would appear to be a drastic measure.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia School District has raised their 2011-12 budget shortfall estimate to a whooping $629 million. To cope with city’s financial crisis, the administration is considering some extreme cost-cutting measures including the elimination of 413 positions, reducing individual school budgets by 13%, increasing class size, reducing transportation and possible programming cuts to the arts and gifted education departments. And there is also talk of reopening the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union contract with the hope of saving $75 million. What does it take to reopen a teachers union contract?

This is such a difficult time for school districts and taxpayers . . . Harrisburg, where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

On the topic of school voucher program — It was interesting to note that in Haverford School District, the school board members have decided to take a stand on the proposed school voucher legislation. To show their disapproval of Senate Bill 1 (or any similar school voucher type of legislation), Haverford school board voted unanimously to make their objection in the form of a school district resolution and send a copy of the resolution to Harrisburg. Does T/E school board have a position on school vouchers? Has T/E school board passed a resolution opposing SB 1? Do you think that they should?

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  1. Not sure about the details, but typically the demotion from full to half time for the principal would mean a reduction in school year, not necessarily in weeks. Principals are typically 12 month employees, which means 260 days. Teachers are 180 days (or thereabouts depending on the contract), so you would not necessarily cut the week in half if you reduced administrative time to “teacher time.”
    I’m not minimizing it, but I would assume that the particular employee is on board — because there are still shortages of administrators throughout PA. Only an administrator can review/observe a teacher I think.

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