School Board Approves $1.8 Million in Budget Cuts; Board Member Asks District Employees to Step Up
Although approved, the $1.8 million in budget cuts are not final until the budget is officially adopted during the first meeting in May.
In an emotion-filled meeting, the Nazareth School Board Monday night approved $1.8 million in budget cuts, eliminating eight jobs -- seven of them teacher positions -- as well as the popular driver's education program.
Much of the talk centered on eliminating driver's ed. Before voting, for instance, the board heard from a pleading Randy Hall, one of the two driver's ed teachers.
“Could we increase the fees for the driving lessons? Could we cut a car?” Hall asked. “Could we limit our before-and-after school lessons? Could we give lessons during the summer?”
Superintendent Victor Lesky made note to the board and members of the public that these cuts are not final until the budget is officially adopted during the first meeting in May.
Board member Linda McDonald made a motion to table the driver’s education item, citing the need for more information and discussion. But the motion failed by a 5 – 3 vote.
Lesky feels the school board is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“I have to agree with 99 percent of what you’re saying,” Lesky told Hall. “Unfortunately, the state of Pennsylvania has put this board in a position that it has to make these tough cuts and decisions. If there are other ways, as you said, I don’t have answers at the current time. I’d love to have other ways.”
Board member Darrell Crook called out to those employed by the district.
“… If every employee in this district did something to help this situation, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I have not seen people come out of the woodwork saying I will give this up and I will give that up,” Crook said. “Can we get things back if we get some cooperation?”
Although the cuts were unanimously approved -- they include the two driver's ed teachers, two special education teachers, two technology specialists, a family consumer science teacher from the middle school and a full-time custodial position -- Crook gave props to Hall for speaking out about the driver’s ed program.
“You really put a face to the program and it’s hurting,” Crook said. “It gave me a lot more information, so the position I’m taking this evening is a lot more difficult than when I came in this evening.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Hall described the roll the driver’s ed program plays in the district.
“We do this because there is a demand for it,” he said. “Students do it because they want to work to get their driver’s license and learn to be safe, responsible drivers.”
In 2011, Hall explained, nearly 80 percent of students age 16 or older are taking the course at the high school, making it one of the most popular that Nazareth offers. He added that more than 350 students are taking the course this school year.
Students who receive their licenses from the course also qualify for a 10 percent insurance reduction until age 21 through most agencies -- savings that could add up to $1,000 to $2,000, according to Hall.
“Again, I would like to say that I’d like to see the program stay,” Lesky said. “If some other funds become available between now and June [30, when the final budget must be adopted], I’d ask that [the driver’s ed program] be brought back to the table and we’ll look at restoring it at some level.”
As for Hall, he will remain in the classroom whether the driver’s ed program stays on the cut list or not. He plans to be an Earth and Space Science student teacher within the district.
Jarrett Hoff, the second driver’s ed teacher, has been filling in this semester for a teacher currently on medical leave. He can and will return to his special education position within the district.