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Where are the Cuts at the Top in Springfield Schools?
Where are the cuts at the top? District 186 parents are anxious to find out why none of the highest-paying jobs in the district are on the chopping block as the school board works on the district's budget. The school board decided on cuts from the bottom up. Custodians, bricklayers, and even interns were sliced from the budget. But parents' demands for cuts from the top-down fell on deaf ears.
Following the money trail, we found out it pays to be an administrator in District 186 schools. Board members said they wanted to keep the cuts out of the classroom. Among the positions they approved to cut were three truancy interventionists for a total of $100,000. There are 41 administrators in the district (not including the superintendent and recently vacated HR manager position) who each earn that much per year. So where are the cuts at the top parents have repeatedly asked for?
We scheduled an interview with school board president Susan White a day in advance to ask that question. Just before midnight she canceled via e-mail and didn't respond to requests to reschedule. She was unavailable according to her e-mail, but the man running against her in the April election took on our questioning.
"We need to stop the finger pointing and the derogatory remarks to each other and start thinking about the 15,000 kids and 13,000 employees and 36 schools we have in this district," sub-district 4 candidate and retired educator Mike Zimmers said.
Among those 1,300 district employees are three custodians--one in each of the district's high schools--who on Monday were voted out for a projected savings of $110,000. With those three removed, the remaining custodial staff will adjust to pick up the expected duties.
"I met one of the custodians who's having to leave Lanphier because his position's been cut," sub-district 3 board member Scott McFarland, who is running for re-election unopposed, said. "We should never have voted to do that."
He voted against consolidating Wanless and Pleasant Hill Elementary Schools and against closing the academically successful Capital College Preparatory Academy.
"We need to look at the higher levels and the administrations and keep the cuts away from the schools, which we unfortunately are not doing right now," McFarland said.
Administrators in District 186---many of them principals-- are making bank. Pay has been frozen for the last several years, but more than a hundred of them are earning a salary that is greater than $9,000. School board member Lisa Funderburg voted to close and consolidate the two north end elementary schools and to close the high-performing CCPA, as well. She didn't return calls or e-mails for an interview, but Teresa Jones--the woman running for the sub-district 1 seat currently held by Funderburg--did.
"We vote for a board and they have two primary goals: That is to supervise the superintendent and that is to adopt a budget," Jones said. "I feel they failed with both."
McFarland makes the point we've heard board member Judith Johnson also make.
There is enough money in reserves to hold off some of the classroom cuts the board has decided to make. Other board members and the superintendent have warned, though, that the following year's budget will need to have just as many cuts as this one does. Next time promises to come with its own drama as nearly every seat on the school board is up for election. Only two current board members --Judith Johnson and Scott McFarland--- are running unopposed. Several others aren't running at all.
That election is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9.