The Davenport School Board unanimously approved a drastic two-year budget from the administration Thursday night to comply with the School Budget Review Committee’s (SBRC) deadlines. A five-year budget was also approved.
The two-year plan was first discussed at a meeting on Wednesday night and calls for a reduction of 83 certified staff members, which includes teachers, nurses, media specialists, counselors and coaches at all levels. To try to decrease layoffs, the board approved a “one-time reduction of years of service eligibility requirement to 15 years” Monday night for the 2018-2019 school year, meant to encourage early retirement, and save an estimated $500,000.
Two school closings through consolidation to a K-8 model are included in the five-year plan, one each year in the 2020-2021 fiscal year and the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Interim Superintendent TJ Schneckloth said one of the proposed closing was moved up a year.
“The school closings that are in there will not be next year, but the following year, due to the actions that are required by policy,” he said. “That is one of the differences as we moved up to get to a balanced budget.”
Director Clyde Mayfield said he had serious concerns about closing schools.
“We are creating a large problem for the future of one of our high schools,” he said. “ … We keep skipping over that whenever I bring it up, and moving to a different subject. … We keep closing the feeders that go to it. It’s like chopping the body off the head.”
The five-year plan also includes converting the three high schools from a block to a traditional schedule in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which would purportedly save $1,500,000 by eliminating 20 more teachers.
“This is not an easy decision; it keeps me up at night,” Director Allison Beck said. “ … Regardless of how we got here, we’re here, and we can’t look backwards.”
The district projects the total cost reductions in two years will be $13,793,000. In addition to the proposed certified staff layoffs, three administrative positions will be cut due to “restructuring of leadership in central office,” and $935,000 will be cut via a “reduction in personnel and discretionary funds” from business services, human resources, learning information services, the curriculum department, learning supports, marketing and operations; according to the plan, one or two positions will be cut from each of the listed departments.
A $300,000 reduction in the general education dollars that are spent in the special education office, was also proposed in the two-year plan. Schneckloth said this will not affect compensatory education or any of the citation areas.
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“It’s allowable to have general funds go to the special education office to pay for things like administrators, secretarial things: things the special education dollars can’t pay for,” he said.
School Board President Ralph Johanson said that while things are “moving fast,” it’s to comply with the SBRC timeline.
“The reason the board is voting on this plan is not because it’s required by law, or anything like that,” he said. “The school budget review committee wants to know that the board supports the administration’s plan to get that into … a positive position, with respect to our budget.”
While the board discussed the two-year plan at Wednesday’s night meeting, they were not able to vote as it had mistakenly been added as a “discussion” item, and the Freedom of Information Act requires a 24-hour notice for public meetings.
“By the time I caught it, it was too late,” Johanson said.
In order to present the SBRC with the newest documents, Johanson said the plans had to be approved Thursday, and that he had asked for an extension from 4 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
“We’re not trying to hide anything; we’re not trying to do anything wrong,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything right, and we have to get this done today. There’s no question about it. If we didn’t get it done, then we lose that opportunity, and we go to the SBRC with old information.”
Multiple school board members, including Vice-President Linda Hayes and Director Julie DeSalvo, said they were approving the plans because they were “fluid.” After receiving feedback from the SBRC and making modifications, the board will re-approve the plans in March.
“I just want to clarify, that when everyone talks about a ‘fluid’ plan that we can manage and change -- we can change to some extent, and I did verify that with the SBRC this morning,” Johanson said. “It’s not fluid to the extent that we can change our mind and not retain that $13 million.”
Johanson said approving the plan was important to the SBRC for “the purpose of knowing the board supports the plan.”
“The board does not have the authority to make the budget,” he said. “ … The administration is making the budget, and we’re putting our stamp of approval on it.”