School District Cuts 9 Staff

High school, elementary principals face lay off, sports will be pay to play, parents to pay kindergarten tuition



Roy Sandoval


Jason Lobik


Kathe Ketchem

The Payson Unified School District will lay off nine people, including Payson High School Principal Roy Sandoval and Frontier Elementary School Principal Paula Patterson.

School officials said Monday night at their regular meeting that sports and other extracurricular activities will now be pay-to-play, with fees yet to be determined, and because of state cuts, parents will pay tuition for all day kindergarten next year.

The cuts only partially solve the district’s estimated $1.2 million deficit — which could grow yet another $1.2 million should voters defeat May’s statewide sales tax vote.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien said Monday’s decisions represented just two-thirds to three-quarters of the coming cutbacks.

“Sadly, unlike last year, a shortfall of this magnitude will not be solved with stimulus dollars or attrition,” said O’Brien. Eleven positions were eliminated last year without layoffs. Also, stimulus money allowed the district to create several new positions and even start a new early intervention program.

Monday evening’s meeting did not feature last year’s contained glee of skirting doom. This coming year has all along marked the time O’Brien has repeatedly warned about. Pain has come.

School board members prefaced the decisions with tearful condolences. Several members of the public addressed the board with brief, but futile pleas for various positions or people. The entire meeting lasted less than 30 minutes — one of the board’s shortest, yet most impacting.

“It is with deep sadness we are here,” said board member Viki Holmes, sounding on the verge of tears. “This is the most difficult meeting I’ve ever had to attend.”

Board member Barbara Underwood’s tears prompted her to ask member Rory Huff to read her statement. “Living in a small town makes this work more difficult,” Huff read, because members know these faces well.

Two gentlemen spoke on Sandoval’s behalf during the public comment period, and Rim Country Middle School librarian Barbara Potvin sent in a written statement about the importance of librarians and how the impacts of eliminating those positions would likely cause long-term detriment to the district.

Potvin was one of those laid off.

All told, four administrators lost jobs Monday night — district Curriculum Director Kathy Kay and PHS athletic director and assistant principal Jason Lobik along with Patterson and Sandoval.

Payson Center for Success Principal Kathe Ketchem will oversee both her school and PHS; Payson Elementary School Will Dunman will oversee FES.

PHS also lost librarian Greg Larkins and attendance secretary Joanne Lopac.

O’Brien’s wife, Priscilla, also lost her part-time Spanish teaching job.

“I’m not going to ask anybody else to do anything I wouldn’t do,” O’Brien said about laying off his wife.

So far, the district has aimed cuts away from the classroom. However, O’Brien said cutting more administrative positions is impossible. “We’re really down to the bone — we’ve cut into the bone, actually.”

He also said the cuts aren’t sustainable. Although they’ll work for the next year or two out of necessity, O’Brien said asking people to continue with that much extra work isn’t tenable.

“The great news is that we have the override,” he continued. “I can’t even get my head around what we would do without the override.”

Voters recently agreed to reinstate a $1.2 million schools override they originally flunked in 2008.

The next huge variable is May’s sales tax vote. O’Brien said cutting salaries isn’t on the table because the district needs to remain competitive in attracting teachers.

Originally, school officials believed the shortfall would amount to less than now estimated. However, a continued enrollment drop coupled with rising insurance costs and fewer federal funds worsened the budget shortfall.

O’Brien said choices were made by taking input from those in the district and also by examining who could manage the best.


Dan Varnes 6 years, 9 months ago

At first read, I thought that this was an early April Fool's joke.

More and more layoffs are happening, businesses are closing or floundering and the brilliant minds in our local government can't wait to raise our hotel taxes, our car rental taxes and our water rates.

Brilliant... just brilliant.


Jimi Alexander 6 years, 9 months ago

This is proof enough why Prop. 100 needs to pass and usher in some relief for our schools. I don't care what one's stance is on fiscal responsibility; it is simply unfair, unreasonable, and unhealthy to force school administrators to bear this kind of burden. Having to manage two schools at once? If you don't think this is going to impact educational quality in our town, your head's either in the clouds or in the sand.


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