With the school board's final unanimous approval of the Reduction in Force (RIF) plan, 37 positions, which includes only seven teachers, have been eliminated from the Webster Parish School Board payroll.
Adding all the reductions in staffing both district and school-wide, plus the additional spending reductions that are already in place, the estimated savings for the next school year will approach $4.2 million.
During Monday night's presentation of the positions to be eliminated, board member Malachi Ridgel asked Superintendent Steve Dozier if more teaching positions could be saved if others still choose to retire.
"Oh yes, all the way to the end of the school year," he said, "any of these positions ... if anybody leaves ... goes elsewhere we will automatically try to put these people in these jobs."
Positions to be RIF'd at the school level are seven teaching positions (elementary and secondary combined), including one elementary, two special education, one social studies, two physical education, one counseling position cut to part-time and 16 special education para professionals.
Board member Ronnie Broughton expressed concern for the Special Education Department.
"If we reduce 16 paras does that reduce the effectiveness of the Special Ed program?" Broughton asked.
Upon Dozier's reply of "No," Broughton said, "I will hold someone to that."
"Anytime you have more, you can do things better," Dozier said. "If I have a hundred, I can do it better than if I have 50. If I have 50 I can do it, but I can't do it better than 100. But I can't pay for 100 so that's what your choice is," Dozier continued.
Dozier then explained that every special education teacher, the para paired with each teacher and each student were looked at before a decision was made.
"I agree if we don't need them," Broughton said, "but what I'm feeling and what my gut is telling me is that we are over-burdening the special ed program. That's what I'm concerned about."
Positions to be RIF'd at the district level include four special education staff professional positions, one district Safe and Drug Free School coordinator position and two contracted positions, two district office secretaries, two maintenance department employees (sanitary workers), one mechanic (transportation), one facilities director and one maintenance supervisor (upon retirement this summer).
The RIF plan or Phase A was unanimously approved with a total estimated savings of $1.9 million.
Board members also discussed and took action with the Spending Reduction Plan or Phase B.
This plan includes that the superintendent will teach a minimum of one day a month, all supervisors, special education staff/all other district coordinators will substitute teach two days per month and staff developers will substitute teach 2.5 days per month.
The plan also includes that Minden and Lakeside high schools will cover subs internally two days per week and substitute rates will be reduced to $55, $65 and $75.
A one-year moratorium on all out of state travel for the school year 2012-2013 was removed from the agenda.
Funding for most travel comes out of Title funds, which does not negatively impact the general fund. The item as quoted on the agenda would have included all travel.
Also removed from the agenda was reduction of the 12-member school board to seven members when new elections occur.
Board member Penny Long addressed Dozier on the removal of this item.
"Can I ask a question about something you removed for the public and myself? You removed the board members reduced to seven – why did you remove that?" she asked.
Dozier explained while the reduction of board members from 12 to seven can save approximately $36,000, a demographer is not free and more time is needed to study the issue.
The Reduction in Spending Plan or Phase B passed after board member Brandon Edens made a substitute motion to accept Phase B, excluding the one-year moratorium on all out of state travel.
With all members present, eight were in favor with Charles Strong, Malachi Ridgel, Frankie Mitchell and Jerry Lott opposed.
The next board meeting will be May 14 at 6 p.m.