Aspen schools could cut staff positions | AspenTimes.com

Aspen schools could cut staff positions

Eben Harrell

The Aspen School District may be forced to eliminate four full-time staff positions – three in the high school and one in the elementary school – as part of a plan to cut $400,000 from its budget next year. Additional restructuring may also eliminate a position at the district office.District Superintendent Diana Sirko said yesterday that the staff reductions will likely occur through attrition, leaving positions of departing employees unfilled. Layoffs may be necessary, however, Sirko said.”While we are looking at staff reductions, we expect to handle most of the cuts through attrition,” Sirko said.The proposed budget cuts, prepared by Sirko with input from a task force of 35 district staff and community members, have been forwarded to principals at the three schools who now have a month to either find alternative ways of saving money or accept the recommended work force reductions. Final approval of the budget by the school board is expected at the end of June.The district is in the second year of a three-year plan to eliminate a nearly $1 million deficit. After slashing $400,000 this year, the district needs to cut another $400,000 in recurring expenses next year. An additional $140,000 in cuts will be needed in the 2006-2007 school year.After focusing cuts on administrative sections of the budget last year, officials warned the next round of cuts would likely include reductions in staffing. Schools now have until early March to see if such cuts are avoidable.”What we’ve done is shown how much money each school needs to cut and we’ve recommended staff reductions to reach those savings. But I’ve said to each principal ‘if you and your staff have more efficient ways to reduce money, go for it. You know your specific programs and needs better than I do,'” Sirko said.While Sirko did not designate which positions in the high school should be eliminated, she suggested the elementary school reduce one of its three reading teachers. Aspen Middle School is not designated for any staff cuts at this time but may need to share a teacher with the elementary school, according to Sirko.”The middle school has traditionally been the leanest-funded building compared to the other schools,” Sirko said. “Next year, they will also have two of the largest classes – eighth and sixth grades. That’s why they aren’t included in any major reductions,” she said. Eliminating three full-time positions at the high school would save approximately $200,000, while cutting a reading tutor at Aspen Elementary School would save $60,000. Restructuring the district office could also result in the elimination of a position, saving $22,213. The district may also be able to save $30,000 by folding the district’s director of technology job duties into the job description of assistant superintendent. Both the technology director and the current assistant district superintendent are retiring at the end of this year. Sirko said she hopes to hire a new assistant superintendent – the current assistant superintendent is also retiring – with a strong technology background to provide technological support.Sirko said the district faces some tough decisions before drafting the final budget for school board approval in April.”All of our programs have value, but we have to ask what components of our instructional programs are a luxury we can no longer afford,” she said.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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