A large crowd showed up at South Eastern's school board meeting last week following a recent proposal by the superintendent to cut 17 teachers.
The meeting was held in the South Eastern Middle School-East auditorium to accommodate the crowd, but did not include a direct discussion of Superintendent Rona Kaufmann's proposal.
Kaufmann said more of that will be done at 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday during budget meetings.
Concerns: But when members of the public got their chance to talk, several parents, students and teachers voiced their concern. Some worried about class size or what would happen to a favorite teacher.
Niko Hulslander drew long applause after he spoke at length with his fifth-grade son at his side. Hulslander said his wife, Dyan, taught the children of five members of the school board.
The SEMS-West fifth-grade teacher is one of the 17 teachers who have been informed they could be among those let go, he said.
Although she has been teaching at South Eastern for more than a decade, she took a year off after 10 years to help Niko with his business. A technicality in the collective bargaining agreement, which calls for furloughs based on years of continuous service, means she's on the chopping block since her rehire date is recent.
More than just the technicality, Niko was most concerned that South Eastern was prepared to cast off a teacher with years of experience and whose children attend the same school she teaches in.
"Ten years of her service does not matter," he said to the board.
"My heart was breaking for her," added substitute teacher Joanne Bennett. Bennett told the board she covered for Hulslander's class the day Hulslander was informed she was among the possible furloughs.
Overstaffed: Kaufmann said she doesn't relish the idea of letting teachers go, but declining enrollment in recent years and a $3 million deficit have forced her hand.
"Honestly, we're just overstaffed," Kaufmann said Friday.
Only two teachers are retiring as of now, she said, below the normal rate of attrition for a school district.
"We just have to get staffing under control," she said.
Even if 17 teachers are let go, class sizes should only balloon by two to
three students, Kaufmann said.
She added that she has no control over who gets furloughed because it's all in the collective bargaining agreement. The school board has not yet decided, though, if it will pursue the furloughs, which could save South Eastern $900,000.
She does have another idea on the table that would result in some staff additions. The board is considering eliminating the midday bus run for half-day kindergartners, meaning parents would either have to drop off or pick up students.
The cost savings for the bus run could be put directly back into making those half-day classes into full-day, Kaufmann said, benefiting students academically, adding positions for teachers and helping parents logistically.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ydblogwork