There was some controversy at an East Texas school district special board meeting on Friday night, after the school decided to cut several faculty and staff positions.
The district implemented a reduction in force plan, something the state says a school district can do if they are in financial trouble or if they want to implement program changes.
Several employees of Winona ISD were on hand to voice their disapproval for a decision made by the board to cut four teaching positions and two administrative positions. The employees have said the district waited a long time to make the cuts final, and that financially, the cuts aren't necessary in the first place.
The Texas Association of School Boards says a reduction in force plan allows districts to eliminate job positions in various areas, even if those employees did nothing wrong.
Implementing the reduction in force plan took several months. Superintendent Denise Shetter told KLTV 7 that the process of deciding which positions would be cut started in February. Originally, as many as 15 to 20 jobs were being considered, but those teachers were given the option to retire or to move to other districts.
"We announced the RIF in February to allow anyone who was considering retirement or considering seeking employment in another area to have that opportunity to look and get first chance at the really good jobs," Shetter said.
On Friday, Shetter announced that four teaching positions, in middle school technology and high school English, business, and social studies, were being cut.
"The program changes were primarily due to overstaffing," said Shetter. "So when you look at how many students have signed up for a particular course, and you say we want 15 to 20 to 20 to 23 in every class period, it makes us, it allows us to be more effective in utilization of schedule for our staff."
Shetter told us in March the district needed to get control of its expenses, because it had operated a deficit budget the last four years.
But the changes, which Shetter says will be final in June, have upset community members and teachers who say the district isn't being honest about its finances.
For the 2011-2012 school year, the district thought it would bring in just over $8 million in revenue and have budgeted expenses of about $8.35 million - for a projected deficit of $326,000.
But their independent audit shows that during the 2011-2012 school year, Winona ISD actually brought in more than $8.3 million in revenue, but they only spent about $7.5 million, for a budget surplus of nearly $720,000.
At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the district had more than $4 million in the bank.
But school experts also say a district has to take into account the number of students that are enrolled. Shetter says the district has about 930 students now and expects a number close to that next year.
"From where we started this year, we started with about 970, 980 and enrollment has dropped some," said Shetter. "So we're going to have to keep an eye on that and make sure that we keep up with the trends."
Shetter says the cuts were hard, but they're what's best for the district.
"We wanted to make sure we had all the data, all the input, we didn't want to make a rash decision," Shetter said. "It's been difficult for the teachers, the students, and the board. I think we've come to a reasonable decision, even though it's not a good decision for those few."
Winona ISD also plans to add some career and technical education programs to their curriculum next year, programs like a print shop and pharmacy tech.
Shetter says they want to let their students' interests form their curriculum.
The Winona ISD school board meets in a regular meeting Monday night, and one teacher has already told us he plans to be there, speaking out against the changes.
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