Ashland schools won't lay off teachers

Ashland School District won't lay off teachers this summer, instead closing its $1.15 million budget gap for next academic year by not filling six open positions and slashing funding for classroom supplies and sports, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said Thursday.

The cuts will result in larger class sizes at all three traditional elementary schools, as well as in more crowded electives classes at Ashland Middle School and social studies classes at Ashland High School, she said.

They also will mean students and teachers will have to get by with a minimum of new materials, such as pencils and textbooks, and that the district's maintenance department will be able to fix only problems that are urgent "health and safety issues," Di Chiro said.

"We hope that these cuts won't affect academic achievement," she said. "It's going to be a challenge because the cumulative effects of the cuts we've made over the last five years are not good."

After so many years of budget cuts — a result of a decline in state funding for education because of the economic downturn — the bare-bones district was concerned it might need to lay off teachers this year. Di Chiro initially suggested laying off two teachers, an elementary music instructor and a John Muir School teacher, but a last-minute $400,000 windfall from the state saved those positions.

Instead of laying off teachers, the district won't fill six positions that will open up this summer because of teachers retiring, resigning or taking leaves of absence.

Di Chiro has suggested eliminating the equivalent of 5.85 full-time teaching positions, or nearly two cultural arts positions at Ashland Middle School, one social studies position at Ashland High School, one position at Bellview Elementary School, one position at Walker Elementary School and one elementary physical education position.

The teacher cuts would save the district $516,000, Di Chiro said.

She also wants to cut $218,000 of discretionary spending on supplies in classrooms, as well as custodial, maintenance and administrative departments.

"It's going to limit our ability to buy the types of supplies we're used to," Di Chiro said. "And we won't be able to fund maintenance improvements to facilities like replacing carpet. The only kinds of issues maintenance will respond to are going to be health or safety issues."

The discretionary cuts also include reducing the high school athletics budget by $33,000. This, along with an additional $16,000 sports staffing reduction, would eliminate the school's golf program, a swimming coach, a cheerleading coach and funding for all club sports. Student athletes also would be required to pay for their own lodging when they attend overnight tournaments.

The School Board already has agreed to cut one instructional day and one teacher preparation day from next academic year's calendar, saving $160,000.

The district will eliminate all after-school sports at Ashland Middle School, yielding $110,000 in savings.

The district's budget committee is scheduled to begin reviewing the budget in early May, and the School Board is expected to vote on the final document in June.

The district is still working to ratify a contract with its classified workers and a salary agreement with its teachers, Di Chiro said.

The good news is, no additional cuts should be necessary this spring to balance the budget for next academic year, she said.

"The budget's looking a little bit better than it was," Di Chiro said. "We should be able to move ahead and finalize the budget with no further reductions."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or

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