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Amherst approves school budgets with staff cuts

Amherst Superintendent Maria Geryk

BULLETIN FILE PHOTO Amherst Superintendent Maria Geryk Purchase photo reprints »

The equivalent of nearly 17 full-time positions will be cut in the Amherst elementary schools and the equivalent of 12.6 full-time positions will be cut from the Amherst regional schools under separate budgets passed unanimously by the district school committees Tuesday.

That includes 3.2 administrative positions in the elementary schools and three in the secondary schools.

One Amherst School Committee member, Amilcar Shabazz, was absent for the elementary budget vote.

The Amherst elementary schools faced a budget gap of more than $600,000, and the Amherst regional schools faced a budget gap of more than $1 million.

“We have to be fiscally responsible at the same time as creating a budget that supports the mission of our schools — at times that those two things are competing with each other,” Superintendent Maria Geryk told the boards.

“We have created a budget which is in line with our commitments to the academic core, to visual arts, to music, health, wellness, social and emotional development of our children, and furthermore provides the resources to support our commitment to equity.”

The elementary school budget cuts are largely unchanged from recommendations Geryk made Feb. 5, and will have the greatest impact on “specials” teachers — who teach art, music, physical education and world languages — and paraprofessionals. In February, Geryk said she anticipated laying off staff and reducing hours in order to make the cuts but hoped to achieve most of the reductions through attrition.

Under the budget, the equivalent of one half of a full-time art teaching position, one-third of a music teaching position and one-third of a physical education instructor position will be cut. The elementary school Spanish program will be eliminated entirely, resulting in a reduction of the equivalent of 1½ full-time positions. These reductions are expected to save more than $155,000.

Geryk said the cuts will not result in reduced classroom instruction for students, and that the specials teachers will still have time for the activities they lead outside of the classroom.

Crocker Farm Elementary school will see the fewest reductions. There will be no cuts to the music and physical education instructors assigned to the school, and only the equivalent of 10 percent of an art teaching position will be cut. Wildwood Elementary School and Fort River Elementary School will both see reductions in the art, music and physical education instructors. At Wildwood, one classroom teacher will be cut due to declining enrolment.

The equivalent of 3.2 administrative positions, one guidance counselor and nine paraprofessionals will also be cut.

The administrative positions which will be cut in the elementary schools are the equivalent of one full-time educational team leader, one full-time English curriculum leader, one full-time clerical support position, and one-fifth of a student services administrator.

The elementary district will also be hiring one Steps-to-Success Liaison and adding one fifth of a bilingual registrar position.

There also will be staff reductions in the middle and high schools. Geryk said that she will know whether layoffs are necessary in April when she finds out what the natural attrition will be.

In the middle school, the technology elective will be eliminated and the equivalent of one full-time physical education teacher will be cut. As a result, physical education time will be reduced in the middle school. The reduction is expected to save more than $57,000.

The high school, which will lose the equivalent of nearly five teaching positions. Those cuts include the equivalent of 1.6 full-time elective teaching positions and 2.3 academic teaching positions. One teaching position will be cut at the South East Campus, which serves special needs students.

One internal suspension teaching position and the equivalent of 1½ full-time paraprofessional positions will also be cut in the secondary school district.

In the regional school district, the equivalent of three full-time administrative positions will be cut, including four-fifths of a student services administrator, one-fifth of a webmaster, one-fifth of an English Learner Educations coordinator, one clerical position at the middle school, and one coordinator at the South East Campus.

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