Teacher reduction proposed

School District 55 Supt. Larry Horton Monday recommended the reduction of 2.5 teaching positions based on enrollment declines and ending grants.

District officials also are discussing two ideas to reduce slightly two administrative positions.

Horton’s recommendation is to reduce one teacher at Oak Heights; a .5 full-time equivalent at Holley, for which a grant has ended; and the district elementary PE position.

A state grant funding about 20 percent of the position ends this year, Horton said.

Ideas for administrative cuts include reducing the Foster principal position and the Food Service Director to .85 FTE, Horton said. Those cuts should be sufficient to cover the reductions for the 2010-11 school year.

The changes will be included in the proposed budget, which will be completed next month.

At this point, financially, the district appears to be able to maintain its current level notwithstanding the enrollment decline, he said.

The district is projecting 23 fewer students next school year, Horton said.

This year, Oak Heights is at 327, down from 337 last year. Holley is at 91, down from 105. Hawthorne is at 314, up from 309.

Foster is at 283, up from 270. Crawfordsville is at 86, down from 96. The junior high is at 354, down from 364. The high school is at 733, down from 739. Overall this week, district enrollment was 2,346, up from 2,336 the same week last year.

Attending Monday’s regular board meeting were board members Chanz Keeney, Jason Redick, Chairman Mike Reynolds, Dale Keene, Jenny Daniels and John Fassler. Billie Weber, David VanDerlip and Leena Neuschwander.

In other business, the board:

Agreed not to charge rent to Little Promises preschool during June, July and August.

Little Promises, a nonprofit organization, has been leasing the old Pleasant Valley school building.

“These economic times have been hard on everyone, and Little Promises has struggled to balance our budget,” the Little Promises Board said in a request to the School Board.

“We’ve raised rates for parents who can’t afford another increase. We’ve held fundraisers to help with our shortfall. We’ve solicited our utility companies to help with some relief, and we’ve asked our staff to forgo a raise for two years in a row.”

The organization struggles most during the summer when teachers are not working, and people are on vacation or using other options for childcare, the request said. Heading into summer 2010, it’s becoming clear that without more help, it cannot afford to continue to operate.

The Little Promises Board requested that summer rent payments be waived to allow the organization to continue to operate and be available for teachers and parents who go back to work in the fall.

At least 25 percent of Little Promises’ children are from teachers families, said Executive Director Anita Hutchins.

Like the district, Little Promises’ enrollment is down, from about 270 families to less than 150, said Tonya Jensen, Little Promises board secretary.

Those decreases are largely part of the economic downturn, Hutchins said. Some parents are not working, so they keep their children. Others are using family members to watch their children. The Charter School also has affected Little Promises numbers with a preschool program.

Little Promises is asking for three months rent to ensure they can cover expenses in September when the preschool goes full time again.

In exchange, Little Promises will paint the south and west walls of the building and continue to landscape and maintain the property over the summer.

In the meantime, the board is mulling plans to close Little Promises for the summer or operate part-time for those parents who cannot get by without Little Promises. That’s a kind of negotiation process underway right now, Hutchins said. The board will consider a decision on Monday.

“This is one of those when I hesitate to make a recommendation,” said Business Manager Kevin Strong, who also is president of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group Board of Directors. “It’s tough to take my SHEDG hat off in a case like this because you’re looking at one of the larger employers in Sweet Home.”

Yet the district needs the revenues too, he said. Rent is $1,425 per month.

Little Promises has 16 to 17 employees, Hutchins said. That’s down from about 24 at its peak.

Little Promises has been a good tenant and kept the building up well, Strong said. “That’s of definite value to us.”

Long term, it’s important to have a tenant in that building that’s successful, he said.

The district may give up a few months of rent, but it will receive a year of rent it wouldn’t if Little Promises closed, Keeney said, and he knows that Little Promises employees give back to the School District in numerous ways.

“The program benefits the Sweet Home School District just from the education standpoint,” Redick said, with the preschool program helping prepare children for school.

The board voted 6-0 to waive rent during the summer.

“We’re truly grateful to the School District,” Hutchins said. “They’ve been good partners.”

The district has taken good care of Little Prommises, and Little Promises has taken good care of the district’s building, she said.

Hired Connie Gienger on special contract for special education for 2010-11 at Crawfordsville.

Accepted a donation of an iMac computer from Jane Bubak.,

Changed the retirement date for high school Spanish teacher Cynde Burford from Dec. 1, 2009 to March 1, 2010.

Approved the retirement of high school science teacher and football Coach Rob Younger.

Approved a $71,000 paving contract with Holderman for Holley Oak Heights and Hawthorne. The project will deplete remaining bond funds.

Held the first reading of various policy updates.

Proclaimed March 1 to March 5 Classified Appreciation Week.

Approved an achievement award trip for 115 junior high students for qualifying final citizenship and scholastic grades at the end of fall term. The trip will be to the University of Oregon, including tours of a museum, campus and the bookstore; a classical music concert; and lunch at a local Chinese buffet in Eugene.

Renewed contracts with district teachers following an annual executive session during which the board may renew or not renew contracts.

Hired Martha V. Moore on a temporary contract as a teacher.

Received $8,640 in grant funds from the Oregon Data Project Grant for training on data entry.

Received a copy of a proposed contract with the Oregon Jamboree. The board will decide whether to ratify the new contract at its April meeting.

Received a $4,656 U.S. Tennis Association grant to paint 24 mini-tennis courts at the elementary schools, three to five at each school.

Received a $25,000 technology grant for the Gear Up program. Of that, $11,050 will be used to purchase hardware for the junior high, and 13,950 will be used for software and hardware at the high school.

Approved a spring break trip for the high school baseball team to a tournament in Yreka, Calif.