The hallways will look different next year after 52.5 teachers and workers are cut from School City of Mishawaka. Principals, teachers and other school workers gathered at the Board of School Trustee meeting Tuesday night to hear the superintendent’s plan to fill a $4.7M deficit in the next two years.
"I’ve spent a good deal of time over the last months looking at that problem and looking for solutions," says Superintendent Steven Mills.
Mills stepped the crowd through his ideas, including cutting 12 positions at Mishawaka High School, 8 from John Young Middle School, 16.5 from the elementary schools, 5 administrative positions and 11 support staff jobs.
"When you're talking about a cut, it's not just a word, it's a person behind it so it makes it even more difficult, and yeah, it's heartfelt and it tugs," says Dave Troyer, John Young Middle School Principal.
Superintendent Mills says cutting the jobs, in addition to several other changes, will fill in the $4.7M deficit. Those other changes include eliminating elementary and middle summer school, reducing supplies and travel and changing elementary school athletics. Administrators’ salaries have been frozen, board members are paying more for their health insurance and teachers even voted to give up a $200 a piece stipend.
Even though the payroll will most likely be different next school year, officials say they’ll do everything they can so classroom sizes and courses don’t change drastically.
"We'll have to pick up and take a look at our daily schedule at Mishawaka High School, try to keep things in tact as much as possible,” says Mishawaka High School Principal Jerome Calderone. “The teachers that have been in the school and have seniority will step up to the plate and do a magnificent job, no doubt in my mind. But you always hate to see young teachers lose their jobs."
The school district, like many in the state, is dealing with massive deficits after Governor Daniels made severe cuts to education. The district is estimated to spend $36M in 2010 and only raise $33M in revenue. School officials say enrollment is down and property value has significantly dropped, meaning less money is coming into the district.
Teachers are being offered incentive plans to retire in an effort to save as many jobs as possible. School officials say six teachers have already agreed.
"What I see and what I have seen is a fair, equitable plan I believe dealing with the severe nature of the problem," says Board President Larry Stillson.
Stillson says someone in the community recently said a snide comment, challenging if Stillson that if he “Was so worried, why doesn’t he just write a $500 check?” Well, that’s exactly what Stillson did Tuesday night.
"$500 is not a lot of money, but you know what, if you had enough $500, if you had enough $100 bills, if you had enough checks coming in, you might save a job."
The board will vote on a plan on March 23. Teachers and staff should find out in April if they’re losing their jobs.