Archive for Thursday, May 10, 2001

School jobs in limbo?

Board president calls Winans’ visit with staff premature

May 10, 2001

Superintendent Dave Winans' annual evaluation couldn't have fallen on a worse week. After visiting with the district's transportation and grounds crews to tell them some work agreements may not be renewed because of budgetary reasons, some Board of Education members said the visit should have been put on hold.

"I really do think it was premature to talk to our staff about funding because the board hasn't even discussed it," school board Marion Johnson said. "There's no sentiment on the board for cutting staff. We'll look for other ways to meet the budget first."

In early April, Winans asked Eudora school district department heads to submit five budget scenarios. After the departments met and prioritized their budgets, the district's transportation department came in last.

Though falling to the bottom of the prioritized list, Winans said the transportation department's services would not suffer if the budget cuts were made later this year. District transportation and grounds director Matt Daigh disagrees. Daigh said he kept mandatory busings such as shuttles for the handicapped, but many others would have to go without. Transportation for students who live less than two-and-a-half miles from their schools would be eliminated. Also, kindergarten shuttles and student transportation to extracurricular activities would cease.

Daigh said Winans asked him to prepare a budget for the 2001-2002 school year with one-third of the money he's had in the past.

"You can just imagine all the things I can't do with two-thirds less of the money than I used to have," he said.

Budgeting this year has been tough for a couple reasons. One is that the state's contribution hasn't been finalized. Additionally, board member Mark Chrislip said the new format Winans is using has made it tough for some. "It's a different format than we've used in the past. However, it's too premature to be talking about this. No decisions have been made," Chrislip said. "There has been an increase to our operating budget that hasn't been met with funding from the state. But we're not in a crisis to fund our operating budget."

Winans asked department heads to submit budget scenarios based on a five- and two-and-a-half-percent decrease from this year's budget. Department heads were also asked to show scenarios based on no change, in addition to a two-and-a-half-and a five-percent increase from the current budget.

Daigh said the transportation department could not function properly with decreased funding. He said he's hopeful the Eudora Board of Education will recognize the need for transportation funding in the district and find ways to avoid the budget cut.

"Clearly that is not my recommendation," Daigh said. "There is no way on each we can operate on that kind of funding. I'm simply completing an assignment."

Winans said it was too soon to tell if any positions would be eliminated, but he wanted to inform the workers in advance to be fair.

Still, Winans' visit left some transportation services department personnel concerned.

Mary Williams, who has worked for the district for 13 years said she didn't understand Winans' logic.

"A lot of us felt like, if this was fair, why was the meeting held at 6:40 a.m. and I left to go on my route at 6:50 a.m.?" she said. "I felt like all it did was confuse us more. I didn't even get a chance to give my opinion."

Winans said the uncertainty of state funding has caused difficulty in preparing a budget, which must be finalized by August.

"The Legislature hasn't made up its mind so we don't know what our revenue is going to be," he said. "School districts are wrestling with many more questions than this when it comes to next year's budget."

Daigh said the prospect of downsizing had been unsettling in the transportation department, even if a final decision is months away.

"When you have a large segment of your work force that isn't sure of that fact, sure it causes some hard feelings and concerns," Daigh said, "Some people have wondered if they should seek other employment."

Williams said that thought has crossed her mind.

"Hey, I can go elsewhere. Something else will come up," she said.

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