The Avon Lake School District will cut its Family & Consumer Science (home economics) program in a continuing effort to shave $1 million off the budget and ensure the district is operating in the black in 2014.
Kim Bennett, who teaches high school Family Consumer Science (FCS) and Susan Carr, who teaches Learwood Middle School FCS, will both lose their jobs. The Avon Lake Board of Education made the decision at its Feb. 27 board meeting to “Rif” (reduction in force) the positions.
Superintendent of Schools Bob Scott said after the last levy failed, the district was forced to make some tough decisions, including eliminating positions.
The cuts are the latest in a string of program cuts, pay freezes and personnel maneuvering to trim the district’s costs.
School union head Leslie Koelsch sent a letter out to union members after the school board voted Feb. 27, explaining how the board arrived at its decision.
“At the time Mr. Scott was projecting in the neighborhood of (eliminating) 40 FTEs (full time employees)," Koelsch said of when the levy failed last November. An FTE is actually a calculation with one FTE equaling $70,000.
Despite program cuts and wage freezes for teachers, the budget was $1.05 million over. Ten teachers in the district retired after the 2012-13 year, and the district opted not to replace them.
“These 10 cut positions (plus the secretaries) bring us very close to balancing our school budget,” Koelsch emailed to union members, noting that the 2 additional cuts almost balance the budget.
Scott said the decision was hard.
“We knew in November we had to meet fiscal year responsibility for 2014. We have to be in the black,” Scott said.
He said the board waited until Feb. 1 for incentives for retirements.
“It lets us take number of teachers we were going to have to let go from 20, down to 10, and then 2," he said. “It could have been worse. The saddest part is both teachers we lost were good teachers.
“Looking at programs, right now Family Consumer Sciences don’t need to continue. (A third) had already retired. It’s not that the classes weren’t valuable. We could potentially get (some classes) through LCC and LCJVS classes.”
“In reality though, any loss is still a loss,” Koelsch wrote. “I would be overjoyed right now if we were able to save these two staff members from their devastating loss. It is truly a sad day for the students and staff..."
One of the those teachers said it would be a loss to the district.
“I think the board made a mistake eliminating our department,” Carr said. “Family and Consumer Sciences teaches real life skills to students and also reinforces and applies core subject areas such as math, science, reading and composition.
“The topics we teach are extremely relevant in today's society: healthy eating and good food choices, smart financial decisions, and maintaining healthy relationships. I know the ALCS is in a tight spot right now where money is concerned, but I am disappointed that they chose to completely eliminate our department as a way to remedy that situation.
She said the other teacher and she had preferred that only one of them be cut than to see the entire department go.
Carr said she hopes voters support the levy in May so no other programs suffer the same fate hers did. Scott said even if the levy passed, the program would not be reinstated soon.