Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 26, 2013

Blazer faculty cuts spark concern

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — Proposed faculty cuts at Paul G. Blazer High School attracted a sizable group of concerned parents and teachers to the Ashland Board of Education’s regular meeting Monday evening.

Under its proposed staffing allocations for the 2013-14 academic year, the high school would lose a total of six teaching positions. School officials say the cuts are necessary to bring the school’s budget in line with what the district is expected to receive in state funding.

But Blazer Principal Derek Runyon told the board he was concerned that eliminating so many teachers could compromise the school’s academic programs.

“Simply put, there’s no way, shape or form in which we can do this without hurting students,” he said. “My concern is that anything we do is going to impact student achievement in some form or fashion.”

Runyon said the proposed cuts, along with others that have previously been made, would amount to a nearly 20 percent staff reduction in the six years he has been Blazer principal.

He told the board he and the school’s site-based council had come up with a list of teaching positions that could be eliminated with the least amount of impact, and that he’d spoken with the teachers on the list to let them know their jobs might not be available next year.

Dwindling enrollment is the principle reason the cuts are necessary. According to Superintendent Steve Gilmore, Blazer currently has 858 students, but its faculty budget is for a school with more than 1,000 pupils. State funding is based on a school’s average daily attendance.

But Runyon said deep cuts in the high school’s faculty could cause enrollment to drop even more. If the school has to eliminate certain courses because it doesn’t have the teachers for them, some students might choose to transfer to other schools that offer similar courses, he said.

Board Member Charlie Chatfield questioned Runyon over why he hadn’t consulted with central office staff in determining which positions to eliminate and how to go about lessening the impact of the cuts.

“Seeing as how you’ve presented this almost as a death penalty with regard to continuing the high standards at Paul Blazer High School, why would you not reach out to everyone available to determine what would be the best course of action?” he asked.

Runyon said he hadn’t done so because he believed those determinations would best be made by people in the school building. But, he said he was certainly open to consulting with central office personnel in the coming months.

Gilmore said he believed that might be the best way to find “creative solutions” to the matter.

“It may not be the best scenario for next year, but it might be a workable one,” he said.

Board member Frank DeMartino said the school system was likely to have to find other “creative solutions” to staffing issues in the future because the district’s enrollment was likely to continue to shrink.

“Let’s be blunt — this (enrollment) is going to keep going this way. It’s not going to get any better,” he said.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.