Pine Takes Back Layoff Notice After Finding Cuts Less Than Expected

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The Pine Strawberry School District board rescinded a layoff notice to one employee and reinstated pre-kindergarten Friday after new information emerged from the state about budget cuts and emergency certification.

On April 6, the board had decided to lay off one paraprofessional, one special education teacher and one pre-school teacher, along with eliminating the pre-school program.

However, Superintendent Mike Clark said he learned days after the decision, that the district expects to lose $78,000 instead of $180,000 from the state. The smaller than expected cut allowed the district to reinstate pre-school.

The pre-school teacher, however, had emergency certification, which the state will not accept after this school year. That teacher will still lose a job.

Next year, the existing first-grade teacher will teach first- and second-grade.

The second-grade teacher will move to third-grade. The third-grade teacher will teach kindergarten since the kindergarten teacher has resigned.

A reassigned teacher will switch to pre-kindergarten, and the district will keep the paraprofessional, who is essentially a teacher’s aide.

The special education teacher’s layoff sticks because the school lost nine special education students this year, and Clark said he couldn’t justify to his constituents or the board employing two special education teachers when one would suffice.

Clark said the existing first-grade teacher who will now teach a combined class is “a highly experienced, extremely competent teacher” who can handle the 13 first-graders and six second-graders easily.

The school has about 120 students enrolled.

The $78,000 in state cuts includes $57,000 in money that helps school districts pay for utilities and $21,000 in base level support.

“I just hope we don’t get any more cuts,” Clark said, adding that the district could absorb up to $100,000.

Financially, the district appears to be in good shape. Several months ago, it received $99,000 through a federal program that compensates districts with large amounts of national forests for lost property tax revenue.

Another $109,000 in two installments of federal stimulus funds will also help the district through the coming years of economic uncertainty.

“Right now we’re in a holding pattern,” Clark said.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be going through a similar process in 2011,” he added, because the state is still likely to have a deficit.

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