Anticipating future budget problems and declining enrollment, two principals in the Tonawanda City School District recommended cutting teaching staff for the 2009-10 school year.
High school Principal Kevin Kazmierczak and middle school Principal James Newton made their recommendations to the School Board and the district's budget advisory team during a meeting Tuesday night. Both asked for authorization to reconfigure staff in several programs, ultimately losing about the equivalent of three full-time employees at the middle school and five full-timers at the high school.
Still in his first year in Tonawanda, Kazmierczak said that enrollment has decreased for years but that the staffing levels have not been adjusted proportionally. He noted that three full-time physical education teachers at the high school gave average class sizes of 12 students. Kazmierczak recommended switching one physical education teacher to part time, which would increase the class size to 25.
Board Vice President Lynn Cassel was shocked at the current gym class size.
"That's rather low," she said. "If two people call in sick, you couldn't even [field] a team."
Tonawanda's high school enrollment dropped from 758 in 2007-08 to 693 this year. Administrators estimate next year's student population to be 671. Considering the drop in enrollment, School Board member James Weber likes the idea of staffing cuts.
"We have to change our ways, but we are starting to look at some alternatives," he said.
Both principals recommended switching current full-time positions to part-time status, thus saving money on salaries and benefits. Budget advisory team member Mickey Shaw, who is an art teacher for the district, argued that most employees hired on a part-time basis usually start looking for other full-time jobs.
"Some people do like working [part time], but that's very rare," Shaw said. "I can see the difficulty, but when I see these reductions, I grow concerned that we're eroding [education]."
"Downsizing is never popular, but it should be entertained with heightened sensitivity," School Superintendent Whitney Vantine said.
Cuts in the operating budget also are envisioned. Newton offered a building budget of $111,382, a decrease of $9,616 from last year. Kazmierczak is recommending an operating budget of $183,901, down $3,936 from last year.