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Teacher Aide Cuts Still Possible

The School Board continued its budget talks Tuesday night.

Teaching aide cuts remain a focal point of discussion as the budget process moves forward.

Facing declining enrollment and cost downshifting from the state, Superintendent Nate Greenberg proposed cutting all teaching aides from the elementary schools.

The cuts would affect 31 part-time teaching assistants, with cumulative hours equivalent to 17 full-time positions, and save roughly $250,000, according to Greenberg.

The elementary school principals told the School Board that teachers would adjust classroom practices and work closely with reading and special education specialists to maintain small-group instruction without the teaching assistants.

Another 13 certified teaching positions would be cut under the proposed budget, though Greenberg said those reductions were directly related to continued declining enrollment.

At a School Board meeting Tuesday, many reiterated opposition to the teaching assistant cuts.

"It's not just a reduction," said School Board member Leitha Reilly Tuesday. "In my opinion, it's a policy change and to make a policy change like that – and this is not just my emotional plea to save jobs – I'm not comfortable with a policy change as strictly a budget decision."

Reilly said the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn. has also influenced her opinion on the issue.

"After the events of this weekend, I'm sorry, but I want more bodies in my school, more grown-up bodies who know what to do in the event of an emergency," she said.

School board members John Robinson and Nancy Hendricks have also said they support keeping the teaching aids in the budget.

But School Board member Steve Young said he is in favor of retaining the cuts proposed by Greenberg.

"Presently, I support the superintendent's decision for that reduction in force," Young said Tuesday. "I support the administrators who spoke tonight and said they can be successful," he said.

Young said he was not comfortable raising the budget by $250,000 to retain the positions.

Budget Committee Chair Dan Lekas asked that the issue be put before voters as a separate warrant article.

"My plea is let it go to the ballot and let the people who actually have to pay for it make the decision," he said.

Budget discussions continue Thursday, when district staff will present two alternate budget proposals, one with a level budget number and one with a level tax rate.

Staff will also provide presentations on the budget proposals for building and grounds and the maintenance trust.

The budget hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10.

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