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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow LG SCHOOLS EYE CUTTING 13 POSITIONS

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LG SCHOOLS EYE CUTTING 13 POSITIONS

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The La Grande School District is facing the prospect of cutting at least 13 teaching and non-teaching positions to balance its 2003-04 budget.

The district's administrative team is proposing that nine teaching and four non-teaching positions be cut as part of a $1.2 million budget reduction package.

Under the plan the following positions will be cut:

• 3.5 elementary school classroom teaching positions.

• Three elementary school physical education teaching positions.

• 1.5 teaching positions at the La Grande Middle School.

• One teaching position at La Grande High School.

• Four of the five media assistant positions in the school district's libraries.

Cutting the 13 positions would save about $570,000.

"These are painful cuts, these hurt,'' said La Grande School District Superintendent Jay Rowell.

La Grande, like most school districts in Oregon, is in financial straits because of declining state revenue caused by a slumping economy.

Rowell said the process of developing the reduction package and telling people that they will probably lose their jobs is trying and demoralizing.

"It wears me down. It has been difficult for me mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically,'' Rowell said. "I have lost a lot of sleep at night. ... I like to think of myself as a people-person and this makes it even more painful.''

Cutting the 3.5 elementary school classroom teaching positions will cause the average size of grade school classrooms to rise slightly to 27-28 students.

The loss of the grade school physical education teachers would mean that classroom teachers would have to teach PE. Training will be provided to prepare the classroom teachers to instruct PE.

The budget cutting plan also calls for the vice principal position at the La Grande Middle School to be cut to half time. The individual in the vice principal position would then also work halftime as the supervisor of the school district's federal Title I program. Title I programs are aimed at helping students who are about a year behind in school.

Under the plan, the high school's athletic director position would be reduced to half time. Verl Miller, LHS's athletic director, is retiring at the end of the school year.

The athletic and activities budget would be reduced by 10 percent, saving the school district about $42,000. This will reduce funding not only for athletic programs but also plays, musicals and student activity programs.

In addition the proposal calls for $530,156 to be saved by reducing spending on all non-personal items in the budget by 11 percent.

In some cases it is possible that people may not be laid off if their positions are cut since reductions could be made by not hiring people to replace those who are retiring. A number of teachers at the high school and middle school will retire at the end of the school year. However, very few at the grade school level are retiring.

It would be difficult for the teachers who are losing their positions to be moved to other jobs in the school district. Previously it was possible to temporarily move teachers to positions they were not certified to teach. This is virtually impossible now because the new federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Rowell fears that more cuts may be necessary. The school district's 2003-04 budget is being built on the assumption that the least amount the state will spend for school funding in the 2003-05 biennium is $4.8 billion.

However, new projections indicate that funding could be as low as $4.5 billion. La Grande School District officials are trying to determine what additional cuts would be necessary if state funding comes in at the lower amount.

The budget committee will later review proposed cuts and then make a recommendation to the school board. The board will make the final decision on which cuts will be made.

Input from the public on proposed cuts is continuing to be sought by the school district. It can be sent via e-mail to: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Citizens' comments will be shared with members of the budget committee.

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