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Janesville School Board to consider plan that would cut number of teachers

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
March 10, 2012
— The Janesville School District’s administration proposes to save $324,350 next year by employing fewer teachers, but that leaves an unanswered question: How will the district handle a multimillion-dollar budget deficit?

The savings, detailed in the annual classroom-staffing plan released Friday, would come from a reduction of about the equivalent of five full-time teachers for the 2012-13 school year.


The school board can begin discussing the staffing plan when it meets Tuesday.


The entire plan, with staffing projections at each school, was to be posted on the district’s website in advance of the meeting. It is also available at gazettextra.com/agenda.


The plan calls for the number of teachers to rise slightly in elementary and middle schools, reflecting increased enrollment and one expanded program.


The administration proposes to expand the Challenge Program for talented-and-gifted students. Third grade would be added to the current program, which serves grades four through eight.


The number of special education teachers would drop by seven if the school board approves the plan. The high schools would lose 4.7 positions.


The board decided previously to increase the maximum high school class size from 30 to 32, noted human resources director Steve Sperry. But another factor has kept that decision from reducing the teaching staff further.


Sperry said the high schools pushed students to take fewer study halls. The result was about 300 fewer study-hall hours.


“We’re putting more kids in the classrooms,” Sperry said.


Sperry could not say how many study halls students took this year.


The push is part of a larger plan to boost academic rigor and improve results on ACT and AP tests, said Superintendent Karen Schulte.


The staffing plan calls for bigger special education caseloads in the coming year, Schulte said. Teachers who might have had responsibilities for 12 students with disabilities would take on 14 to 15.


Those numbers comply with state guidelines, Schulte said.


Schulte said the district kept the special education caseloads low in recent years to help with the transition to a new program to help struggling students called Response to Intervention. Now with that RTI is established, teachers are being asked to handle more students.


The staffing plan also calls for a decrease in classroom aide hours at the high school level but increases in 4-year-old kindergarten and elementary and middle schools. The changes reflect projected enrollment, officials said.


The overall increase in aide hours would cost $32,209 more than this year.


The school board, meanwhile, is being told to expect a budget deficit of $8 million to $10 million—a similar situation as it faced last year.


Schulte cautioned that the actual deficit won’t be known until students are counted in September. Any estimate now is “a stab in the dark,” she said.


The board’s main budget-balancing options seem to be raising taxes, using the fund balance or cutting expenses. Staffing represents the majority of spending, and last year the board cut 110 jobs from most employee categories.


If the board wants to cut additional teaching positions, it should do so by April 10, when it will be asked to approve the staffing plan, Sperry and Schulte said.


The law requires any teacher who is laid off for the following school year to be notified May 1, Sperry said.


Any board member considering cutting teachers won’t know exactly how much needs to be saved, however.


Schulte said the administration would not issue a more precise estimate for the budget deficit until the state issues its first aide estimate July 1.


The administration last year issued changing estimates over many months as new information became available, Schulte said, but that was confusing to people.


The staffing plan is the administration’s recommendation for what is needed to meet district goals of raising student achievement and the satisfaction levels of parents and staff, Schulte said.


West side might get Challenge Program

The west side of Janesville would benefit from the expansion of the Challenge Program for talented and gifted students if the school board approves plans.


The board won’t see a formal proposal until its second meeting in March, said Superintendent Karen Schulte.


Schulte is proposing to add two sections of third grade to the Challenge Program, which currently serves grades 4-8 at Roosevelt Elementary School on the east side and Edison Middle School on the south side.


One third-grade section would be added at Roosevelt, while another one would be added to Madison Elementary School, Schulte said.


An additional grade would be added each year on the west side. Eventually, the Challenge Program would comprise grades 3-8 on both sides of town, with the Madison Challenge students continuing at Franklin Middle School.


Schulte said the proposal grew out of parent comments at meetings she held to discuss the proposal to move Rock River Charter School to Franklin. That plan appears to be shelved, and Schulte said she is now considering Franklin for a new academy that would focus on science, technical education and math.


If you go

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.


The meeting will be telecast live on Janesville Charter Cable channels 96 and 993. The meeting will be shown again at 9 a.m. and noon Wednesday through Friday and the following week Monday through Friday on the same channels.



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