October 27, 2010

Derry Teachers Facing Layoffs

Union Leader Correspondent
 — Facing an unprecedented $7.1 million reduction in state adequacy aid next year, the Derry Cooperative School District has presented a preliminary budget proposal that cuts $4.5 million and 75 positions districtwide.
“It took us a long time to get to that bottom line, and I know that the number might not be good enough,” said Derry Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon in an interview on Tuesday. “We know that in the next two months we’re going to be really buried in figuring out where we’re going to go.”
The $72.5 million budget
 roposal, which was presented to the Derry School Board and its fiscal advisory committee Monday night, comes in $5.4 million and nearly 7 percent under the approved budget for the 2010-2011 school year. 
The most significant position cuts and cost savings come from regular instruction and special programs. 
Under the current proposal, 34 professional positions would be cut from the regular instruction program, finding a combined savings of $1.6 million in salary and benefits. 
Another 27 positions are removed from the special programs budget proposal, which includes special education. With those reductions, the district stands to save $825,852 in salary and benefit payments. 
A handful of other positions are cut from other departments, according to the proposal, including four positions from student services, three from school administration and five from maintenance and facilities. 
And while Hannon said attrition will make up for some of those staff reductions, the district will likely have to lay off a number of teachers, working from a staff seniority list and within the bounds of negotiated union contracts. 
In recent years, Hannon said the district has eliminated between three and four positions in the average year. 
“This is not even close to where we were,” Hannon said. “We’re not operating in the same world. It’s a different universe from where we were previously.” 
Hannon said she met with teachers last month to prepare them for what would likely be 40 to 60 eliminated positions in the proposal. 
“I wanted them to know that this is not because people don’t support or really admire the work that’s being done by staff, but that it’s out of necessity that we really need to take a look at this,” Hannon said Tuesday. 
“Teachers know, which is very hard,” she continued. “There’s a lot of stress in the building because if you’re a first- or secondyear teacher you’re figuring this is it for you and that your job is at risk. There’s a lot of stress, and I sympathize and empathize with that.” 
Other reductions under the preliminary proposal include $470,000 in districtwide supplies and energy costs, $186,313 in furniture and equipment and $189,518 for the kindergarten mid-afternoon bus. 
The district has yet to receive tuition estimates from Pinkerton Academy, where Derry will likely be sending 64 fewer students next fall, Hannon said. 
Without an estimate in hand, Hannon said she has budgeted at current tuition rates less those 64 students, which would cut Derry’s tuition payment by $908,366 for both regular and special education. Hannon said Pinkerton Academy Headmaster Mary Anderson has promised tuition rates by Nov. 23. 
While the looming $7.1 million reduction in state adequacy money has sent chills through Derry’s education community, Hannon said the district is also set to lose an additional $800,000 in combined state special education catastrophic and kindergarten aid. 
With those numbers in mind, the board asked district staff to put together a budget that cuts $4.5 million from the elementary and middle school programs without dropping below minimum state standards. 
“We came to that number as the bottom line we could come to without going against state aid,” said school board Chairman Kevin Gordon at Monday’s meeting. “We stopped there and said where do we go? Do we go any lower or do we say this is it and go back to the taxpayer?” 
Board member Ken Linehan added: “We also didn’t think it was fair to burden K through 8 with the entire $7 million.” 
The school board and fiscal advisory committee will continue discussing the budget until mid-January, when Hannon said the board will bring forward a final proposal for a public hearing. 

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