BELPRE, Ohio (WTAP) - Update: 5/20/2019
People who spoke to the Belpre Board of Education at its monthly meeting Monday were concerned not only about the elimination of the system's only school nurse, but about some of the seven other positions the board eventually voted to cut.
"To have a decision to have a school nurse, psychological care and janitorial support without working toward a funding option other than that, is asinine," stated resident Ron Farrell.
The board voted to keep the nurse's position, but on a part-time basis, reducing the number of paid hours from 40 to 25. In addition, school officials say the current nurse, who has worked for the system for 21 years, will have to apply for the job.
Speakers questioned the timing of the job cuts, coming 18 months after voters approved an additional levy.
"The trust you depend on for further votes will surely be compromised, and your future elections will potentially be different," said speaker Alisa Snyder.
The superintendent citing a post-levy performance audit issued just a year ago, says it was doubtful the levy revenue would last as long as the levy itself.
"The last thing we want to do is get to a place six years down the road and find out you're out of money," explained Superintendent Jeffrey Greenley, "and have to make a significant deep cut and stay afloat."
Greenley also referred to a series of levies voters rejected in the years from 2000-2010.
UPDATE 5/10/19 6 P.M.
Belpre City Schools has notified employees that it is cutting eight positions in the district.
According to a post on the district’s Facebook page late Friday afternoon, the following positions are being cut:
- director of curriculum (position reduced to a 100-day contract)
- one assistant principal
- one psychologist (one psychologist remains on staff)
- one school-district nurse
- two custodians
- one intervention specialist
- one paraprofessional aide (through attrition).
The district also said in the post that it is making cuts to administrative benefits.
New Superintendent Jeffery Greenley told WTAP on Wednesday that the planned reduction in force is a way to make an operating approved approved by voters in November 2017 “last as long as I can.”
The Facebook post says: “During the 2018 levy campaign, we informed the community that in order to maximize levy funding, identifying efficiencies in district operations and staff reductions would also be required. Feedback from many community members and families indicated they would support the levy with the expectation we would do more to raise the level of academics, to increase educational opportunities for students on the junior high/high school campus, and to bring back the talented and gifted program.
“Our focus is not what would benefit one classroom or one building but what would have the least negative impact to all our students throughout the district at all grade levels. We are making these difficult decisions in order for our schools to thrive in the years ahead. We value and welcome thoughtful discourse from the community. We believe an engaged community is vital to our success.”
Belpre's superintendent of schools says recent passage of a school levy is exactly the reason for a planned reduction in force in the school system.
Superintendent Jeffrey Greenley says part of the reason for the staffing reductions is to "make the levy last as long as I can".
Parents Tuesday cited the operating levy approved in late 2017 in questioning the expected job cuts, which include elimination of the school nurse for the entire school system.
Greenley also cited an enrollment decline over several years, and decisions at the state level leading to a loss in industrial tax revenues.
Belpre City Schools tells us a "reduction in force" will be voted on at a board of education meeting later this month.
And that reduction may already have begun.
Robbin Alton, who has been a school nurse in the district for 21 years, says she was told by school officials Tuesday her position was being eliminated for the coming school year.
Concerned residents-who included Alton's husband-held a small protest Tuesday afternoon outside the district's main office.
Alton says she is the only nurse in the entire district, and some parents we spoke to say the loss of a nurse will have a detrimental effect on students.
"We voted on a levy and got it passed, and now they're taking our school nurse away," says PTO Vice-President Kris Burge "Our students deserve to have a qualified nurse."
Belpre voters approved an operating levy in November of 2017.
"There's kids with medical conditions that a nurse is more qualified to handle than anybody else," added parent Brittany Forshey.
We reached out to Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Greenley.
He sent us an e-mail stating a reduction in force is to be considered by the board at its May 20 meeting, "affecting employees from all bargaining units and groups, including administrators".
Citing the levy's passage, Greenley says the reductions are intended to show "sound fiscal stewardship" in how the school district manages its resources.
The Belpre school district board unanimously approved its five-year forecast financial report at its meeting Wednesday.
The report serves to help local board members and the community with long-term planning and budgeting.
Officials say the passage of the emergency school tax levy this month puts the district on firm financial ground, but there are still challenges to keep the district solvent for the next five years.
"The issues we faced prior to the levy don't go away just because we approved the levy," Belpre treasure Lance Erlwein said. "So, in other words, the district will have to work just as hard, if not harder, during the next five years to ensure that those levy funds last the full 10 years."
"The biggest challenge for us in the next five years is always going to be that funding system that comes out of Columbus," Belpre schools superintendent Tony Dunn, "and until they come up with a funding system that is constitutional and equitable, we will continue to fight that battle."