Board approves $600,000 worth of cuts for current school year

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis Municipal Schools Board of Education unanimously approved $600,000 worth of budget cuts to the 2009-2010 school year and $500,000 worth of cuts to the 2010-2011 budget during Tuesday’s special board meeting.

The cuts were suggested by administration after the Legislature handed down budget decreases to education during an October special session to cover a $650 million deficit.

Cuts to the 2010-2011 budget were a preemptive measure in case education endures further decreases after the January session, Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said.

The cuts will be handled without cutting jobs or programs, mainly by shifting current staff, according to the plan.

The majority of immediate cuts would be dealt with at the district’s central office by moving around staff and keeping vacant positions open. Travel budgets will also be cut in half by reducing out-of-state travel and bringing professional development to the district.

According to the administration’s plan, cuts for the 2010-2011 school year include moving middle school athletics and sixth-grade band to outside the school day. The move would save the district about $160,000.

Also, orchestra would be eliminated as a district-wide program. After five years of recruiting, the program has 14 middle school students.

One third of student and teacher support provided by instructional coaches, literacy specialists and special education liaisons would also be cut to the tune of $350,000, according to the plan.

“The staff has put in so much work looking at the budgets, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is the best we could do. Cuts are very painful, and they always affect somebody,” Seidenwurm said. “But our mission was to look as far away from kids as we could, and I think we accomplished that mission. We want the public to understand that if the Legislature doesn’t take action to restore the education budget, cuts will be deeper.”

Seidenwurm stressed several times during the meeting that the cuts she proposed were the best the district could do without affecting students.

Vice President Mark Lansford said the cuts are bad but were handled appropriately by administration.

“Cuts are always bad. They always affect peoples lives. But looking at the whole, (Seidenwurm’s) recommendations to us, to me, show a level of compassion that most administrations don’t convey,” Lansford said.

Seidenwurm said budget cuts have been discussed at almost every level with every staff.

“I wanted the board to approve future cuts so that the people that will have to handle those cuts will be able to start planning now,” she said.

“All of this hurts,” President Lora Harlan said.

Lansford said moving around band and athletics provides a silver lining. By moving sixth-grade band and middle school athletics outside the school day, students have more opportunities to take electives such as Spanish and choir.

“More instructional time hopefully means better results with our students,” Lansford said. “We’re here to give the students an education to be a successful individual, and I can see us doing a better job at that.”