(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series from Clinton-Massie Local Schools.)
When students and staff return to the classroom in August, there will be fewer teachers and somewhat larger class sizes due to additional cost-saving efforts made by the Clinton-Massie Board of Education.
Faced with the responsibility to tighten the purse strings that fund Clinton-Massie Local Schools, the board of education made the difficult decision to implement additional cuts to the teaching staff and redirect its resources to provide necessary support programs while striving to provide students with a well-rounded and academically fulfilling education.
After studying the expected enrollment for 2015-2016, teacher attrition, and allotting for the retirement of 36-year veteran teacher Sandi Groppenbacher, the board chose to shift teaching assignments, reduce staff positions in first, third, and fifth grades, and eliminate one section of kindergarten.
At the same time, however, the district continues to monitor new student enrollment for kindergarten and first grade and will revisit staffing decisions if warranted. The district also made the decision to eliminate the full-time physical education (PE) teaching position held by Tammy Grunewald-Mudd, who will transition to the middle school, and replace long-time PE teacher Andy Copeland, who retired after serving Massie students for 35 years.
Downsizing the physical education staff will alter the rotation of classes known as specials — music, art, physical education, computer, and library. With the new rotation, students will meet with each special every fifth day, giving up a sixth day rotation that provided an additional day of PE.
Changes are also on the horizon at the high school following the retirement of Mark Schaeffer, who taught both social studies and French. After a review of enrollment numbers in foreign language revealed a steady decline in French and a steady increase in Spanish, the board made the difficult decision to eliminate French from the foreign language curriculum rather than fill the vacated position.
The high school will also restructure the services provided to select students with unique and special needs who worked in a smaller classroom setting and received one-on-one instruction. Going forward, these students will work with special education teachers, receive additional aid support, and transition into the regular education classroom. If necessary, the district will utilize the county ED program for additional resources and instruction.
The district also identified the need to transition a part-time preschool teacher to that of a full-time certified intervention specialist teacher in order to meet the special education preschool requirement as mandated by the 50:50 Model.
Going forward, there will be two 50:50 classrooms containing two units. Each unit will consist of up to 16 students, eight of whom are special needs students and have IEP services and eight of whom are peer mentoring, developing students.
While remaining committed to the target of a 20 to 1 student to teacher ratio in kindergarten, first, and second grades, the board also invested time examining Clinton-Massie’s use of open enrollment options as a means to manage class size and funding.
According to District Superintendent Dr. David Baits, enrollment has decreased in recent years in grades one, three, and five for Clinton-Massie resident students and accepting open enrollment students is an option that benefits the district. At the same time, however, there are also grades where accepting students through open enrollment is not an option, as additional students would require the hiring of additional staff.
“The goal is to make better use of the district’s teaching staff who can either teach a handful of students or a classroom of students,” said Baits, “and while there may be added expense in regards to materials, the district is able to increase cash flow when students open enroll in Clinton-Massie Schools and fill empty seats.”
During the 2014-2015 school year, 143 students chose to take advantage of open enrollment by leaving their home district to attend Clinton-Massie Schools, thus bringing $820, 642 in revenue into the district. However, 171 students chose to leave the district to enroll different school districts and/or pursue community school options resulting in $1,024,091 in revenue leaving the district.
While this creates a deficit of $203,449, that figure would be higher had the district chose not to participate in open enrollment. It should also be noted that these figures do not include the loss of revenue stemming from students who chose to pursue post-secondary education options, as this information has not yet been released by the Ohio Department of Education. Looking back over the last six years, however, the district lost an average of $76,000 each year in revenue for post-secondary studies.
The district continues to benefit from proactive measures taken in 2008 by providing insurance benefits that are more cost efficient to the district. Working with the Southwest Ohio Purchasing Council, the district moved to a high deductible healthcare policy. According to District Treasurer Tracy Parker, in 2014-2015, the district’s insurance claims did not exceed the districts insurance premiums. As a result, rates will decrease by 1% which will bring a savings of approximately $100,000 to the district in January 2016.
As the district continues to prepare for the 2015-2016 school year and beyond, the board of education, administration, faculty, and staff remain committed to being good stewards of taxpayer money and being prudent with expenditures, materials and supplies as they provide Clinton-Massie students with quality programs that foster an academically fulfilling and well-rounded education.
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.