Schools expect no cuts

A year after the steepest budget cuts in Ashland School District's history, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said she expects to keep programs and staffing intact for next school year.

"We're not looking at cuts," she said last week. "I think the good news is we are certainly beginning to see some stability, albeit at a lower level than we would like to see."

The School Board will meet with the Budget Committee at 7 p.m. Wednesday to review the district's financial status. The public meeting will be held in the board room at the district office, 885 Siskiyou Blvd.

Although the district does not plan to trim any programs or positions, it's possible the Wilderness Charter School could close next academic year, because the two teachers who run it have said they will resign or take leaves of absence.

"The teachers that have been working there said that the staffing level we were able to give them this year is not sustainable," Di Chiro said.

The district will not increase staffing at the outdoors school, an extension of Ashland High School, for budget reasons, Di Chiro said.

However, the superintendent said she is hopeful the district will be able to continue the program to some degree.

"We will still be trying to do some kind of alternative education program," she said. "We might do it with an existing staff member at the high school."

Dozens of teachers and other district workers were laid off last year as administrators grappled with declining state funds for education due to the recession. The district's $22 million budget for this school year is 15 percent lower than the previous year's.

Di Chiro plans to ask the board to maintain this year's staffing levels, including maintaining positions for four class sections at the high school that were added this semester, due to high class sizes.

"My main concern at the high school is the high class sizes we have had in some of the core subject areas," she said.

The district added a section of auto mechanics and math, and two sections of an English-Social Studies hybrid class.

The district's budget could increase next year, depending on the results of contract negotiations with teachers and classified employees, Di Chiro said.

"One of the unknowns for us is what will be the results of bargaining with the teachers and classified staff?" she said.

At Wednesday's meeting, the board will get an overview of this year's budget process. In May, the entire budget will be available and the Budget Committee will begin to fine tune it.

Although Di Chiro said she is heartened by the fact that the district likely won't face cuts this year, she said the state's funding for schools could drop the following year.

"Overall what we need to see in state of Oregon is people getting back to work," she said. "Until we really see that, we're not going to see improvement in tax revenue. I can see we're cleared through next year, but after that it's still tenuous for us."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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