More staff cuts are coming, Youngstown schools chief says

Five board members are headed to Orlando.



YOUNGSTOWN — The staff reductions aren’t over yet, Superintendent Wendy Webb told Youngstown City School Board members, in their first meeting after the announcement that 140 positions would be eliminated next school year.

“There’s no alternative,” she said. “We still need to do cuts, but we need to cut appropriately.”

Webb suggested the next casualty of the district’s mounting deficit may be the Irene L. Ward central administrative building on West Wood Street. The state’s fiscal oversight commission recommended the district sell or lease the building in its audit report.

The commission has overseen the district’s finances since it was declared to be in a state of fiscal emergency in November 2006. The school district is operating at a $15 million deficit. If its 9.5-mill levy request is not passed Tuesday, the deficit could climb as high as $48.5 million by 2012.

Webb told board members Thursday night that Youngstown schools teachers and administrators have been professional about the layoffs. The superintendent likened the district’s shrinking staff roles to the city’s 2010 effort.

“We are shrinking the district, which is much harder to do than growing the district,” she added.

Webb said she was glad the district began making staff cuts four years ago. A total of 300 jobs have been eliminated since then, she said. The district trimmed 96 positions already this year.

The latest round of reductions may still be subject to change, Webb said. The school board’s business affairs committee is planning to conduct a study to compare the cost of contracting with skilled laborers as opposed to employing full-time maintenance workers. Meanwhile, the state’s fiscal oversight commission is still considering laying off additional custodial workers.

Webb said a contractual agreement prevented the district from eliminating any additional custodial workers. But the commission isn’t bound by the contract.

Also at Thursday’s school board meeting:

UWebb announced the district has received funding to study the possibility of providing free college tuition at Youngstown State University to its qualifying graduates. The Raymond John Wean Foundation has provided $22,000 to contract a feasibility study on the “Youngstown Promise” program. YSU has agreed to conduct the study.

U The board approved a $4,548 expenditure to send four board members to the National School Board Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Fla., March 29-April 1.

The resolution appropriated $685 per person for conference registration, plus $200 for each flight, $202 per night for hotel rooms, and $50 per member for taxi fare. Attending members are Richard Atkinson, Anthony Catale, Dominic Modarelli and Michael Murphy.

Board member Lock Beachum will also attend. However, because of his status as vice chairman on the Council of Urban School Boards, his expenses have been absorbed by conference organizers.

Despite the district’s financial woes, Beachum said he thought the expense was justified. Attendees will learn how to run successful levy campaigns and how to cope with challenges imposed by the No Child Left Behind legislation, he said.

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