Mathews deficit plan draws opposition

By Jordan Cohen


Teachers and parents have voiced opposition to parts of a proposed plan by Mathews schools Superintendent Lee Seiple to eliminate nearly $650,000 in deficit spending in two years.

Their complaints center on two provisions in Seiple’s plan that would include the elimination of five teaching positions, one of which is a third-grade teacher whose class would eventually be combined with another third-grade class.

“You’re putting younger children at risk,” warned Sandra Webber, president of the Mathews Education Association, the teachers’ bargaining representative. Webber said that placing 26 third-graders in one classroom “will be detrimental to the education of our students.”

Seiple earlier conceded that there could be a negative impact if his deficit-spending proposal is implemented.

“Do I think this will affect the education of our children? Probably so,” the superintendent said. “The smaller the classes, the better.”

The plan projects savings of more than 290,000 from the closing of Neal Middle School at the end of the current school year. Other nonteaching positions would be reduced or eliminated due to the closing as would the need to pay for utilities and other related costs.

Another proposal that drew a negative comment would increase student sports participation fees from the current $50 to $200 per sport.

Seiple said that in 1999, students were paying $200, but the figure eventually was reduced. He estimated the savings to the district through the fee hike at $48,000.

One parent said the increase likely will cause parents who have enrolled their children in Mathews from other school districts to take them elsewhere.

Board President Ken Wallace appeared to sympathize, noting that some sports cost less than others. “We can’t justify charging every student the same,” Wallace said.

None of the board members voiced either support or opposition to Seiple’s proposals during the special meeting, which followed the defeat of the district’s 2-mill permanent improvement levy in Tuesday’s election.

The levy failed by 441 votes out of more than 2,900 cast.

Seiple’s plan projects the use of permanent improvement funds to cover the cost of improvements to Mathews High School necessitated by the Neal transfers. The board voted Wednesday to go ahead with two of those improvements.

Webber said she hoped the board would resubmit the levy in the May primary election, and Seiple said after the meeting he expected to discuss that possibility with the board.

“I’m sure there will be [plenty] of conversation about it,” the superintendent said.

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