The Payson School District’s budget ordeal played out Monday with the board’s approval of 16 layoffs and nine resignations.
In addition, the board approved a plan to shift all the district’s K-2 students to Payson Elementary School and all the 3rd-5th graders to Julia Randall Elementary School in the fall.
Board President Barbara Underwood made the only board comment on the layoffs during the public meeting, saying “I am sad we are in a declining enrollment and cuts from the state and have to let good people go. I only hope that everyone falls on their feet.”
Board member Kim Pound later expressed frustration with the process. “A governing board should be able to govern — you can’t just throw names out there. We don’t know what schools they’re at, what their salaries are. It’s not what I expected.”
The sole good news in the sobering meeting lay in a smaller-than-feared increase in class sizes, to an average of about 25 per class in elementary school. In addition, the remaining employees should see a 9-percent drop in their health care costs, thanks to the low number of claims filed.
All told, the number of teachers in the district will fall by 11 to about 133 — a reduction of just under 8 percent.
The layoffs stemmed from the loss of 100 students and declines in both state and federal support.
The actions included the layoffs of seven teachers, including one teacher in a grant-funded position.
The board laid off nine classified staff, including at least three temporary grant-funded positions. The nine additional resignations and retirements included Rim Country Middle School Principal Gary Witherspoon.
The board also renewed the contracts for seven administrators.
The administration surveyed parents and teachers before deciding to put the lower grade levels at Payson Elementary School.
“This wasn’t my first choice,” said Underwood. “I feel our principals and administrators have decided this is best for our kids. I will rely on that expertise.”
The board’s unanimous vote should close a projected deficit of more than $900,000. Earlier this year, the board voted to close Frontier Elementary School.
After the meeting, board member Rory Huff commented, “I thank the employees for all their years of service. I’m sorry it came to this, but funding rules the world.”
Pound said he was saddened, angry and frustrated by the process, which tightly controlled what board members could do or say and the options they could consider. “Sometimes you can’t do what’s in the best interest of the community you serve. Your hands are tied. Certain things that perhaps you have concerns about, you can’t address.”
The teachers on the layoff list came from virtually every school in the district — including both veterans and recent hires.
The administration developed an elaborate scoring system for determining the layoffs, which included teachers’ specializations, the recommendations of school principals and performance evaluations.
Ironically, the board at the same meeting also gave the administration clearance to hire a new math teacher, since the state has increased math requirements for graduation and the district doesn’t have enough “highly qualified” math teachers.
The teachers laid off included Lynette McCarthy, a first-grade teacher at Frontier with 15 years in the district; Nancy Bruner, a Rim Country Middle School special education teacher with 15 years in the district; Kelly Price, a third-grade teacher at Julia Randall Elementary School with seven years experience; Barbara Toma, a sixth-grade science teacher at Rim Country Middle School with six years experience; Lindsay Smith, an English teacher at the high school with five years experience; and Bill Goodwin, the boys basketball coach and a physical education teacher at the high school who has been at the district for just one year. The layoff list included Dawn Soriano, with the district for a year to work on a federal stimulus grant project.
Classified employees laid off include library aide Mayra Bransford, custodian Scott Reger, secretary Greg Samp, health specialist Ann Maree Thompson, Brenda McAllister, Samantha McCormick and three employees hired with various short-term grants including Diana Hale, Sarah Hubbard and Elizabeth Olsen.
Retiring employees included four teachers — Carmelita Locke, a second-grade teacher at Julia Randall Elementary School for 23 years; Debbie Mercer, a Payson Elementary School first-grade teacher with 19 years service; Susan Kerr-Mellott, a special education teacher at the middle school with six years of service; and Doug Freeman, a Frontier Elementary School kindergarten teacher with one year of service.
Other employees who resigned or retired include Darlene Cross, Susan Koerschner, Elisha Arzaga and Hannah Armenta.
The board approved the cuts with little discussion, completing a process that has hardly strayed from overall recommendations made by a school consolidation committee months ago.