Blanchester Local Schools votes to cut staff, reduce expenses in 2020-21

By John Hamilton - and Tom Barr - News Journal

BLANCHESTER — The Blanchester Local Schools Board of Education voted to make multiple staff reductions and to cut expenditures at its March meeting on Monday night.

Each member said they were upset and saddened when they voted “yes” on making the cuts.

High school math teacher Andy Hamm, representing the BEA, and 2019 Blanchester Valedictorian Nicholas Lansing spoke before the vote about their opposition to the cuts.

The News Journal is planning on a follow-up story to the meeting.

Positions to be cut beginning next school year are:

• Classified staff: Aides — Putman Title (3); I.S./M/S Receptionist (1); Bus Divers (2); and Secretary (224 day/11.5 months) (1)

• Certified Members: Classroom Teachers (6 total) — MS Language Arts (2), HS Foreign Language (1), HS Librarian (1), HS Science (1), and HS Vocational Agriculture (1).

Reduced expenditures are:

• Transfer Vocational Agriculture Program to Great Oaks

• Suspend 17 supplemental contracts

• Suspend transportation/busing in grades 9-12; reduce number of bus stops

• Reduce hours of Payroll Clerk

• Reduce building budgets

• Reduce IS Principal salary schedule

• Reduce services from Southern Ohio ESC

• Eliminate and/or reduce district’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan budgets/projects

• Eliminate Hopewell Special Education Regional Resource Center cooperative contract

• Eliminate multiple p.m. home/sitter stops

• Eliminate students riding home on a bus that is not their originally assigned bus

• Eliminate students riding elementary p.m. routes after school events/activities

The board had announced last week that — due to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to close all schools and to limit mass gatherings — the meeting had been moved to the Board Office at 951 Cherry St.

“In an effort to allow the public to inform itself of the steps being taken by their representatives while avoiding having large groups in the same room, the school board will be live-streaming their March 16, 2020 meeting on the district’s Facebook page, Blanchester School Board CommuniCATor,” the board announced, adding that they would continue to allow public participation on agenda items.

Blanchester Superintendent Dean Lynch told the News Journal Saturday that the meeting change was due to the governor’s orders and public health concerns— not because of a potential large audience concerned about the proposed job cuts to be addressed Monday night.

“We have a lot of excellent teachers working in Blanchester,” Lynch said. “I honestly believe the actions of one teacher accusing the board of acting in such manner is not a reflection of the others. However, I realize some teachers are unhappy with the reductions the board will make on Monday and I completely understand and don’t blame them. The board or I don’t like it either.

“However, the board was given no choice when the one-percent income tax levy failed and the Ohio Department of Education’s directive to get our five-year forecast solvent in years 2022, 2023 and 2024.

“It’s either the board make cuts or the Ohio Department of Education will come in and make the cuts for them. Our community has voted and the board of education has the opportunity to honor the voter’s decision.”

BEA reacts to meeting move

The Blanchester Education Association released a statement early Monday afternoon:

“The Blanchester Board of Education has demonstrated a pattern of limiting public participation at board meetings, especially when making controversial decisions such as terminating employees. We realize that this is a sensitive time, and we are in uncharted waters, but we do not believe changing the location of the meeting was based on the coronavirus pandemic. This decision was made before guidance was issued from the state.”

The BEA continued, “We believe the decision was to prevent teachers and the community from being able to question the decision to cut staff. In addition, the district leadership has not been proactive in planning our next steps for educating our students. While many districts have had a unified plan for continuing instruction in place since last week, Blanchester teachers have not been consulted about ways to move forward with educating our students, and we are anxiously awaiting guidance.”

During COVID-19 emergency

“The administrative staff made the decision Friday to not provide lessons to students, but to give parents/students different educational resources they could access,” Blanchester Local School Superintendent Dean Lynch announced.

“We also made the decision to use our ‘One Call Now’ system to communicate information to parents and students. Building principals made calls Friday and will continue making calls related to their respective buildings as needed. The Superintendent’s Office will make calls related to district level information and updates.”

By John Hamilton

and Tom Barr

News Journal