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Janesville School District officials provide details on cutbacks at meeting

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 1, 2011
— This is what Janesville education might look like with a 13 percent budget cut:

-- More suspensions and expulsions, if counselors and school-based police officers are cut.


The officers and counselors work to prevent trouble, but that proactive approach would be gone, and police would spend more time making runs to the schools to handle trouble. Schools could be less safe.


-- Fewer graduates, if the counselors are cut, because they track students' progress and push at-risk students to keep up with their graduation credit requirements.


-- Less of an effort in the elementary and middle schools to focus on individual students' academic needs, if learning-support teachers, who analyze student test data and run small-group learning sessions, are cut.


-- Teachers who have difficulty with computer technologies would not have someone on hand to help them, because the librarians—these days the schools' software experts—could be gone. Scratch library story times, too.


Those were a few of the answers from district administrators Thursday when Janesville School Board members asked what the district might look like if all the budget cuts now on the table were carried out.


School board member DuWayne Severson questioned whether these things would come to pass or whether they simply might happen. He asked if there were any data to back up those assertions.


It's really hard to know exactly what might happen until the schools are in that situation, administrators replied.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said principals would pick up some of the jobs, and central-office administrators might be stationed at the schools to help.


"We will cover the tasks we can, and some things will be left undone. That's the best we can tell you," Schulte said.


"We will learn to manage," she said.


The board also heard from several teachers who talked about what the loss of support staff could mean.


Teacher Catherine Fowler began to cry as she described the pressures children face from dysfunctional families and as she contemplated the loss of social workers and counselors, which she said are necessities.


"The frustration on many teachers' parts is we see (the needs) in their faces, and we can't do everything," Fowler said.


Fowler said she and her colleagues would like to donate money, but they want to be assured that the money would save jobs that help kids.


Teacher Wendy Haag proposed voluntary contributions from district staff, community members and businesses to hold off some of the cuts, with a United Way-like fund drive.


Haag suggested some might be able to pledge 1 percent of their incomes to keep the schools thriving, which is not only good for kids, she said, but would stave off a slow economic death for the community by keeping the schools' reputation for quality intact.


"I want to save our schools," Haag said. "I don't want to beg for this program or that program. I want to save the whole package."


The teachers union will have more to say about its members' contributions to this plan very soon, said Dave Parr, union president, during a break in the meeting.


The board made some budget decisions. It unanimously:


-- Doubled the high school student parking fee, to $100.


-- Increased the high school sports-participation fee, from $50 to $75.


-- Increased sports-event tickets.


-- Cut central-office budgets, including consultants, legal services and travel, saving $352,000.


-- Froze office supplies, saving $20,000.


-- Ended the fourth-grade environmental field trips to the city arboretum, saving $5,588. Schulte said a business might want to sponsor this activity.


-- Closed the CRES Academy, a charter school for students with drug problems, saving $20,000.


-- Moved the Janesville Academy for International Studies from leased space to the high schools, saving $48,912.


-- Charged a paper fee of $2 per student, raising $20,000.


-- Ended the lease of a storage facility and decided to move stored items to district buildings, saving $70,632.


-- Cut busing for Challenge Program students, saving $48,000.


-- Cut $30,000 of support items from the talented-and-gifted program.


-- Reduced rent for the Rock River Charter School through negotiations with landlord Bob Kimball, saving $22,635. If a school is closed in 2012, RRCS could be moved to that school, Schulte said.


-- Cut the $15,000 membership fee for the Stateline Career and Technical Education Association.


-- Ended a contract with NAMI, shifting monitoring of high school heating and cooling to district staff, saving $103,000.


The board heard from coaches and parents connected to the girls hockey team because cutting that team is on Schulte's list of possibilities. They offered to drive the girls to games to avoid bus costs.


The hockey backers made persuasive enough arguments to get comments of support from board members Severson and Kevin Murray.


Schulte backed away from a previous suggestion that only head coaches for all sports be paid. The athletics directors convinced her that such move could raise safety/liability issues, she said.


Murray suggested that varsity basketball games use only two referees instead of three. That would save about $2,700, he was told.


Board member Peggy Sheridan suggested that sports programs work to become self-supporting through donations.


The board was also scheduled to act on proposals to dip into district reserves to fill next year's $13.4 million budget hole, but that action came after Gazette deadline.


A new calculation from the administration showed about $3.8 million could be taken from the reserves and still comply with school board policy. The administration had previously said only $1.1 million would be available.



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