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Layoffs, reductions in motion

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - The concern was evident on the faces of those attending  the Monday night meeting of the 509-J School Board.


   The need for reduction in force layoffs was unanimously passed by the School District 509-J Board at its April 14 meeting, as one of its cost-cutting measures to reduce a $3.2 million budget shortfall.
   "This is very tough and I know we're going to lose some good people over this," said board member Tim Olgilvie.
   Superintendent Kay Baker said she could not give details on staff cuts until after giving her complete budget proposal to the budget committee Tuesday, April 15.
   "At the budget meeting we will talk about specifics, talk about the business department, and dispel some of the rumors. Right now everyone's looking at things from their own narrow perspective," Baker said.
   She said both unions, the Madras Education Association (teachers) and Oregon School Employees Association (classified employees), "should be glad with the work we've done. Both contracts have very solid language," she said, which states reduction in force should be based on "seniority, competency and merit, and defines those things in detail."
   "A 10.8 percent reduction (to the general fund) is a life-altering change to the people affected and also to the people left here (because of increased work load)," board chair Jeff Sanders pointed out.
   "At the budget hearings, people can voice their concerns. The reductions are not set in stone, but we will cut $3.2 million," Sanders said, suggesting if people don't like a suggested cut they should "give me an alternative or a plan of where else to cut."
   During citizen comments, teacher Margie Long asked why the district couldn't levy a tax to provide sufficient funds. "That way the burden wouldn't just fall on the employees," she said.
   Metolius teacher Mary Krakow spoke, saying she had heard the Teen Parent program, French, Italian, vocational and business programs were being cut. "I can't imagine cutting these things," she said.
   Retired teacher Steve Rankin noted the irony that a Larry Larson business scholarship would soon be available, but wouldn't be given out because there will be no business students. "The world is run by business, and all we have is keyboarding? That's not the real world," he said.
   All cuts in one year
   While Baker couldn't give details by press time, she did say they would try to do all the $3.2 million in reductions would be made in one year, instead of over two years.
   "We will match ongoing expenses with ongoing revenue as closely as possible. In the past we haven't always done that," Baker said, adding, "It's the responsible thing to do, and it decreases reliance on one-time money (use of the ending fund balance or grants).
   Since staff costs account for 85 percent of 509-J's budget, the biggest piece of the cuts will have to be through across the board staff reductions, she observed.
   Approximately 20 to 25 letters went out April 10 to employees being laid off, to give them time to request another position if they have seniority. Things will be in flux for a while as people retire, move, and bump others with less seniority, Baker indicated.
   Already, Westside principal Craig Morgan has been reassigned to Jefferson County Middle School as an assistant principal, Kent Clark will remain JCMS principal, and Briana Groves will remain an assistant principal. As the newest administrator hired, Alex Lever was bumped from his position as JCMS assistant principal.
   It was also been announced that Madras Elementary will house grades kindergarten through second, and Buff Elementary will have third through fifth graders.
   Details on Web
   Specifics on lay-offs, and proposed cuts to other areas of the budget will be posted Wednesday morning, April 16, on The Pioneer Web site at www.madraspioneer.com, and the district's Web site at www.jcds.k12.or.us.
   There will also be a Web site for staff where they can get information on PERS, insurance, Oregon Employment Department assistance, and ask questions.