As promised, Newbury Board of Education began cutting staff Monday, citing the continuing declining enrollment.

School Superintendent Jacqueline Hoynes said it was with “great difficulty” that 9.5 certified positions and three classified positions did not receive contract renewals. The board voted 4-1 to make the cuts, with board member Kirk Simpkins voting in opposition.

She thanked the staff for their service and said the school will offer support as they look for new jobs.

Those positions included a music teacher, special education teacher, a physical education teacher, four elementary teachers, a science teacher and a math teacher. In addition, two bus drivers and a secretary as well as an administrative staff member were also let go.

The contracts for two proctors and two classroom aides were suspended pending the availability of funds.

Dr. Hoynes cited the district’s 30-percent loss in enrollment since 2013 as reasons for the cuts. Despite the continued loss of students, she said, the district never made adjustments in staffing until now.

She said the district will maintain a 13.5-to-1 ratio of teachers to students in grades kindergarten through third grade. A 19.5-to-1 ratio will be maintained for grades 4 and 5 and a 15-to-1 ratio will be maintained for grades 6 through 8 and at the high school. She said the state average is 26 to 1.

She said it was important the cuts be made whether the district was involved in a territory transfer with the West Geauga Local School District or not. If all remains on schedule, that transfer would go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Board member Martin Sanders asked how much the district would save with the cuts.

School Treasurer Sarah Palm said the cuts will result in $700,000 in savings for the 2019-2020 academic year.

School Board President Maggie Zock said that figure may be lower, given that the district will still have to pay out for students who choose open enrollment in another district.

Dr. Hoynes said if the planned territory transfer does not occur, staff could be recalled.

Answering a question from Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Palm said the district should have a $3.6 million balance by the end of the next school year.

Continuing his questioning, Mr. Sanders asked how fast Newbury will run out of money without the renewal of levies.

Mrs. Palm replied by 2023, which Mr. Sanders noted is the same year that West Geauga will go into the red.

Mr. Sanders said the district is simply looking at staff in terms of dollars and cents in making the decision to seek the territory transfer with West Geauga but had touted its small class sizes in a small district as an advantage over other schools.

Mrs. Zock said the district is not only considering the staffing costs, but also capital improvement projects needed for the school.

Mr. Sanders said he wanted the staff to know it is a difficult decision.

“I want them to know it’s not easy,” he said. “Our first responsibility is to the education of our students and the welfare of our staff.

Mrs. Zock said the cuts could have been even worse had the district waited to make the cuts.

Mr. Sanders said while Newbury is citing the drop in students, it is a trend across the country. “They’re (staff) still coming to work and still taking care of our children.”

Dr. Hoynes added, “and they’ve been amazing about it.”

Carrie Hinkle, secretary for the Newbury Education Association, said the union had sought to be included in discussions with the board over the staff cuts, but was ignored. She said since new board members were elected, they have made the decision to not meet with the staff. She repeated the claim that up to 87 percent of the staff will be unemployed because of the territory transfer.

She said West Geauga has not insisted on any staff cuts and the decision is Newbury’s alone.

Citing Ohio law, Mrs. Hinkle said in territory transfers any staff on a continuing contract would have continued status with the new district. She asked that the board respond in writing by May 13 on how they are handling staff cuts in regard to the law.

Mrs. Zock said the board was advised by a union representative to not approach staff and all dealings with the union were handled through the superintendent.

Mrs. Zock said the districts’ administrators are making plans for the territory transfer and will include chances for students of both schools to sit down to share lunch.

Mr. Sanders said when the district was talking consolidation with the Berkshire district they had four or five joint meetings of both boards. He said no such joint meetings with West Geauga have occurred, but he would like to see one.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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