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Ruthven-Ayrshire School Approves Staff Reductions

By Staff | Mar 8, 2011

RUTHVEN – The reduction of staff is never an easy step for a school district to take, yet the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School District completed this unwelcome task as smoothly as possible during a special meeting of the board on Mar. 1.

Comments from the public were welcomed during the meeting.

Ruthven-Ayrshire Band Director Tim Nielsen spoke, addressing the proposed cuts, which included a .5 reduction in the music department.

“I asked myself, in the best interest of the school, what can I do? I’m willing to share the cut in the music program with the vocal department,” said Nielsen. “I would rather not teach vocal music, however if Luke Miller (vocal music instructor) leaves, I would like the opportunity to be employed full-time with the addition of vocal music.”

Nielsen also proposed a .4 reduction instead of a .5 reduction in the music department. The .4 reduction would be shared equally between the instrumental music instructor (.2) and the vocal music instructor (.2).

“As I was looking at the schedule, I feel a .2 cut for the band program at this time would not seriously affect the program. However, a .25 cut would leave questionable room for adequate prep time,” said Nielsen.

Connie Larson, K-12 guidance counselor at Ruthven-Ayrshire, spoke, “Cutting the guidance program from full-time to half-time is too drastic. My office is busy all the time. If you have to make the cut, I’d suggest no fewer than three days a week.”

“I feel this is so disheartening,” said Dr. Christina Liessmann who has two children enrolled in the Ruthven-Ayrshire school district. “I feel like this is one more message that teachers are expendable, and I don’t believe that. I urge you to really look at the research and the budgets. There has to be other options.”

With no more public comment, Board President Lisa Berkland made the recommendation to deal with the proposed cuts as one “package.”

“I don’t think that any one of us wants to see any reductions in our school. If we could avoid doing it in some other way, we’d do it,” Berkland stated. “The only other option would be to do whole grade sharing and it’s too late to start whole grade sharing for next year.”

Berkland continued, “We have zero-percent allowable growth for next year, so we have no new money for next year.”

“We are very fortunate,” interjected Board Member Susan Sikora. “Look at the other school districts around us-they’ve all had to make cuts. This is the first time we’ve had to do this.”

Superintendent Dr. Norene Bunt added, “Part of the problem is the Department of Education is not funding the total student cost. Last year, they shorted each district about $297 per student. So, even if we do get an allowable growth that is unfunded, it doesn’t always mean we’re in better shape.”

On a roll call vote, the board approved a .4 reduction in the music department to be shared equally between instrumental music and vocal music; a .5 reduction in guidance counselor; .5 reduction of a K-8 teacher; .7 reduction of a 7-12 principal; and .5 to 1.0 reduction of a 7-12 teacher.

The approval did not come unanimously, however. Board member Dave Forey cast the lone “nay” of the seven members.

“In order to keep going, this is what we need to do,” surmised Board Member Matt Graves, bringing the matter to a close.

With the previously approved reductions from the Feb. 14, meeting of the board (including reductions in special education, superintendent’s secretary, and paraeducator) and other previous actions (such as the reduction of custodial hours and early retirement), the district stands to save approximately $230,000 for the 2011-2012 school year.

In other business related to personnel, the board approved hiring Tana Schneider as assistant custodian and approved the early retirements of Martha Dyer as head cook and Milton Peters as junior high/high school principal. The early retirement request of Connie Larson, K-12 guidance counselor, was denied.