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School cuts $1 million; must cut $700,000 more

By Judy Reed

How do you make cuts, and keep them away from kids, when there is no fat left? That’s the dilemma facing the Cedar Springs Board of Education as they wrestle with dwindling revenue and escalating costs.

“I understand the state’s situation,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Ron McDermed. “But we’ve been doing this the last 7 or 8 years. It’s like having your home budget. First you cut out the fun stuff, then you stop going out to dinner, and you cut it until there’s not much left, just bills to pay. Right now there’s no extra to trim off.”

Based on current information from the state, McDermed said that they expect $268 less per student next year than they received at the beginning of this year.

Between cuts made earlier this year, and those announced Monday evening, they have cut about $1 million, and will need to cut $700,000 more.

Changes announced Monday evening at the board meeting had to do with a restructuring of administration at the district level. Changes include eliminating the human resources position; eliminating an administrative assistant in the business office; reviewing current contracts and investigating additional possible contracting. They also will be juggling principals at the secondary level due to a need for another principal at the high school level. When Dean of Students Mike Annerino retired last year, he wasn’t replaced. “We had hoped we could get by, but we couldn’t,” noted McDermed. He said that currently the high school has two principals for 1,000 students. “Our focus is to make sure we support the instructional model in a building and build student achievement. Building principals need to have time to see and work with teachers. It’s just not workable with 50 staff, 1,000 kids and two principals. They also need to be able to get back to the community in a timely manner on issues.”

With that in mind, middle school principal Ken See will be moving to the high school, to work with main principal Ron Behrenwald and assistant principal April Stevens. Cedar Trails Elementary co-principal Sue Spahr will be main principal at the middle school (7th and 8th grade), and Anne Kostus will be the main principal at Red Hawk (6th grade) but will also share duties at the middle school with Spahr.

McDermed said that removing Spahr from Cedar Trails doesn’t mean they think it’s overstaffed. “It’s a huge building (600 kids). But we needed stronger support for the middle school. We’ll look to see how we can better support Cedar Trails,” he said.

Other changes include the reduction in hours of an intervention coach position, which reduces one special education teacher position; the elimination of a part-time mentoring position; and the elimination of a middle school counseling position, which reduces one special education worker social worker position. All those reductions will save about $315,000 to $400,000. Other cuts made earlier this year included three people indicating they would retire (and will not be replaced), pausing bus replacements, and other one-time fixes. That makes up the $1 million already saved.

“The board sent a message that they wanted to keep cuts away from kids and that’s what we tried to do,” explained McDermed. “But there’s not much left.”

To reach the additional $700,000, he said they may have to cut seven certified teachers. “We really don’t want to impact kids with class sizes,” explained McDermed. “But everything is on the board.”

He said the next phase of cuts should be announced at the first board meeting in May.

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