Thursday, February 08, 2001

Edgewood teachers fear for jobs, fret about students

District braces for budget cuts, layoffs

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        TRENTON — When Caroline Austin looks around the Edgewood High School gymnasium and sees 63 freshmen in one physical education class, she worries about next year.

        The first-year teacher wonders how much bigger the classes will get. She wonders whether she will have a job.

        And she worries that whoever is teaching the teen-agers may not be able to adequately address learning needs with large classes.

        Edgewood voters Tuesday rejected a 6.9-mill operating levy by nearly a 2-1 margin — 2,130 to 1,230 — that would have provided $2.13 million annually to this rapidly growing Butler County district.

[photo] Gary Willis' American Studies class at Butler County's Edgewood High has been reduced through temporary walls to accommodate a growing student body.
(Enquirer photos)
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        It was the second levy to be defeated in three months.

        Now educators are preparing to cut $1.2 million from the 2001-02 budget.

        Superintendent Dale Robertson said his recommendations to the school board could include a reduction of 20-30 full- and part-time positions. The district has about 400 employees, including 210 teachers, said Ryan Slone, Edgewood's treasurer.

        The board is tentatively scheduled to meet Monday night at the middle school to discuss budget cuts, said John Snyder, board president.

        “We'll start deciding the direction we'll go and proceed with it,” Mr. Snyder said. “I think we'll be back in May (with the same levy). We have no choice. It's the only way we have of funding our schools.”

[photo] Nadia Crum, 15, a freshman at Edgewood High School, sits in a hallway Wednesday. Outside is the site of a new wing.
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        In addition to staff cuts, other areas being considered for reductions next year include busing, after-school sports and clubs, and supplemental positions, such as department chairs.

        “There's no way around (staffing cuts). We could cut all supplementals, all transportation that we're allowed to cut and still have $600,000 to $800,000 to cut,” Mr. Robertson said. “The only place left to cut is personnel.”

        Trenton is a bedroom community south of Middletown, home to Miller Brewing Co. and Cinergy's Woodsdale power generating station. In the past five years the district has grown by about 800 students to 3,350.

        The cuts would come at a time when the district expects at least 100 new students in the fall and as construction begins on a new wing at the high school, which is being financed with a $18.9 million bond issue voters approved 27 months ago.

        “It's going to affect the kids,” Ms. Austin said. “Class sizes are going to be enormous and opportunities are going to be limited. I do worry about my job. I think it would be in my best interest to send out resumes.”

    The Edgewood Board of Education is tentatively scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday at Edgewood Middle School, 3440 Busenbark Road, St. Clair Township, to discuss whether to resubmit the 6.9-mill school levy on the May 8 ballot.
    The board also will discuss cutting $1.2 million from the 2001-2002 school-year budget. Ohio law requires the board to notify staff members if their contracts are not renewed by April 30.
        Parent Vickie Poplin, who has a son at Edgewood Middle School, said she was disappointed the levy was rejected, but not surprised.

        “I expected it. I'm very torn on the issue. I want what's best for my son. I know my taxes keep going up, up, up,” she said.

        “The increases add up to a lot more than people can afford. People are dissatisfied with school funding.”

        Edgewood High School Senior Blake Cripe voted for the tax issue and worries his younger brother won't be able to continue football and wrestling. Mr. Cripe plays football and is in the school's show choir.

        “Teachers being cut is not a good thing. After-school sports are good. So are all the other clubs. It gives us something to do,” Mr. Cripe said.

        He said he's seen his class sizes increase from 18 to 20 students as a freshman to 25 or more as a senior. The crowding is so bad that partitions have been put in some larger classrooms to convert them into two rooms.

        Assistant Principal Bob Buch heim worries that when the classroom addition is finished in two years, rooms will remain empty because there won't be enough teachers.

        “It's really scary,” he said. “We could be looking at losing all our elective classes. We'd be taking away student opportunity. I already know of one student who took all the college preparatory classes we offered and she still couldn't get into Duke. Her transcript didn't meet their requirements even though her grades and (college entrance) test scores did.

        “This is very painful.”

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