Pressing forward

After voting to close seven schools and to lay off more than 700 CTU-based employees, the Cleveland Board of Education will vote on recommendations at its April 26 meeting to lay off additional union and central office personnel, in order to offset a projected $145 million deficit over the next two years.

Our decision to lay off staff and to eliminate positions was not taken lightly.  The management team has spent a  great deal of time reviewing staff roles, duties, responsibilities, contractual obligations and the impact of each on the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations.   Because our school system is a “people business,” cuts in personnel and related expenses are unavoidable.  

Effective June 30, 2011, the District will stop the practice of paying any central office employee’s portion of pension contributions, also known as a pension pickup, to save CMSD an additional $350,000.  Auto allowances for central office staff have also been eliminated and will be replaced with actual mileage reimbursement.  This reduction in benefits helped us to minimize the impact on students and to rescind an earlier proposal to cut $2.1 million in the District’s textbook budget and $500,000 from extracurricular activities.  

Reduction of staff in every area of CMSD’s operations is the only way for us to eliminate the District’s compounding budget deficit over the next two years.  Our intent in addressing the deficit over two years rather than one is not only to put the District on a more stable financial course, but also to allow our staff to focus on the most critical challenge we face—preparing Cleveland’s students for success in a 21st century global economy that is racing ahead of them.

We appreciate the input we have received and that we continue to receive.  We will continue to listen and respond.

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Community concerns, budget woes

Last week the district held two community information meetings to share the recommendations that were presented to the Board of Education to balance the district’s $47.5 million deficit.

During the two meetings, nearly 50 citizens voiced concerns, asked questions, and shared their doubts, confusions and uncertainties. I appreciate the interest of the nearly 350 individuals who attended one— or both— of these meetings.

There are no easy answers to the District’s budget woes, so during this blog post I want to address some of the recurring messages I’ve heard around the district and during the community meetings.

First, having to make cuts is not a pleasant experience for anyone. The uncomfortable truth is that districts around the country face similar financial straits, so we have no choice but to take significant measures to put the district on a path of fiscal sustainability. Therefore, in order to avoid finding ourselves in a similar deficit situation next year, we chose to move beyond addressing the current $47.5 million deficit and recommended $73.9 million in permanent reductions.

Second, there’s no desire to lay off teachers. The reality is that the teacher population and teacher salaries are by far the largest part of the expense base of the district. The district’s enrollment has drastically declined over the past decade. For that reason, it’s necessary to address shifting personnel needs at the school building level and in the central office.

Third, school closings are a tough issue. I recognize that school buildings are more than bricks and mortar. Schools are an anchor in the community, an important element in the student’s and family’s life. The decision to close any school is never an easy one, but, again, to provide our students with a productive academic experience, we must align our facilities with continued declines in enrollment, which will produce needed cost savings in the areas of personnel, utilities and other operating costs.

This evening, the Board of Education is expected to vote on the recommendations put forth two weeks ago. In the coming days and weeks, look for new blog posts, information updates on the CMSD website and email communications for updates and progress.

I care very much about the kids of Cleveland. Together, we will put our district on a better financial path. I want to hear from you…What questions do you have? What concerns you the most? What suggestions do you have? Let this blog serve as a two-way communication vehicle where we can dialogue about what’s happening in our district. I look forward to your posts.

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