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PES slashes staff

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 3:20 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 3:29 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON - The Princeton Elementary School Board has voted to dismiss 25 employees from next year’s school year through a Reduction in Force action, though a good number of those employees could be rehired if funding allows.

At this week’s meeting, the school board voted to dismiss with regret the entire staff of the Bright Beginnings/Early Childhood preschool program, as well as 10 teachers aides and two teachers in the elementary/junior high buildings.

The RIFed preschool program staff includes Janet Becker, Bright Beginnings parent facilitator and program coordinator; Barb Metzger, Bright Beginnings parent facilitator; Mary D’Ambrosio, Bright Beginnings secretary; Lynn Ferrell and Marcia Caldwell, Early Beginnings parent educators; Erica Blessman, Nicole Nyman, Amanda White and Stacey Cherry, Bright Beginnings teachers; and Shelley Colton, Jane Yarrington, Tracey Newberry and Holly Wright, Bright Beginnings aides.

Also RIFed were teacher aides Mary Beth Crowe, Doug Sopher and Je’Anna Smith, all at Lincoln Elementary School; Dawn Mall at Reagan Middle School; Tabetha Morton, Helen Rodrig and Jessica Gray at Logan Junior High School; and Victoria Suarez and Paula Ward at Jefferson Elementary School. Also RIFed were Jennifer Wagner, an aide for a student attending an out-of-district school; Jefferson Elementary School first-grade teacher Jodi Hartman and Logan Junior High literature teacher Alisha Bennett.

Following Monday’s action, board President Judd Lusher expressed the board’s regret at having to take the RIF action. The board is proud of the programs and employees and made the reductions with regret, he said.

Superintendent Tim Smith said the affected employees are hard-working, committed employees who have done a good job for the district. The action was taken solely as a cost-savings measure, Smith said.

On Tuesday, Smith said he is fairly confident the district will receive the needed Early Childhood Block grant to fund the preschool program, which means the PES preschool program and staff will be reinstated. State legislators and the governor have agreed on the importance of early childhood education, he said.

In previous years, only the preschool program staff had been RIFed, but Monday’s additional RIF action was needed because of the district’s revenue problems, Smith said.

Concerning the cost-savings to the district, Smith said he hopes to realize about $350,000 in savings from Monday’s RIF action, apart from the preschool program. The savings is not only from the RIFed employees, but also due to a couple retirements, with those retirees being replaced by younger, lower salaried teachers, as well as another retirement position which is not being filled next year.

If none of the RIFed personnel were called back, the savings would be more in the $500,000 range, Smith said. The RIFed aides represent about 25 percent of the total number of teacher aides in the district, he said.

Looking ahead, Smith said once the district learns what the state will do next year with funding for schools, then the PES Board can reevaluate its RIF action. But until that time, the district had no other way to capture savings than to reduce the number of staff, the superintendent said.

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