NORTHFIELD CENTER — Thirty-eight positions, or 8 percent of the staff with the Nordonia Hills City Schools, could lose their jobs in the district’s effort to slash its budget. The combined cuts would save the district $1.67 million per year.
Most of the cuts — four of which would be through attrition — would be re-evaluated along with other proposed cuts including busing should the district’s 6.98-mill continuous operating levy pass in May, said Superintendent Joe Clark. If approved, the levy will generate around $7 million for the schools and cost homeowners around $20 per $100,000 of their home’s value per month.
A previous 6.98-mill continuing operating levy failed in November.
"As a result of the levy not passing we were forced to send the state a plan to eliminate our deficit," the superintendent said March 5, adding he had "been handing out layoff notices for the past two weeks."
Clark said he’ll ask the board of education to make the cuts official March 18. The layoffs would be effective starting with the 2019-20 school year.
The cuts will include four core content Nordonia High teachers, three elementary teachers, 15 student supervisors, 12 paraprofessionals and one tutor, ELL teacher, NHS intervention specialist and part-time cleaner.
"The impact will be larger class sizes for students and less aide support for our students with disabilities," Clark said. "It will cause our students not to have the same advantages as students from neighboring schools who our kids compete with for jobs, scholarships and college admission."
School Board President Tammy Strong also said the board has struggled with formulating the cost-cutting plan.
"This was not an easy decision, knowing the reductions will cause class sizes to increase in the elementary buildings and high school," she said. "It will reduce the help to our special education teachers across the district."
Nate Loman, a high school social studies teacher and president of the 250-member Nordonia Hills Education Association, said fewer staff "certainly are not good for students."
"I don’t believe it’s good for the school environment to lose good people," Loman said. "It will make managing classrooms more difficult. NHEA is working with the board to get the levy passed."
Members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, which includes 204 district support staff, also intend to help with the levy campaign.
"Although we are very disappointed about the recent layoffs we are very optimistic that the levy will pass on May 7th," the association stated in a release. "We are working along with the Levy Committee to get people registered to vote and are hoping this will be the push we need. We believe our support staff is one of the major components that make Nordonia Hills City Schools great. Strong schools equals a strong community, and we truly hope our voters see that."
OAPSE representative Amanda Schaub, who assists students with special needs at the high school, said there will be a voter drive at the high school a week before spring break during lunch "to get the students more involved in the voting process."
In addition to the layoffs, parents of 2,300 students who take the bus to school may need to look at other arrangements, as the district plans to reduce busing to state minimums to save $595,000 per year. This would eliminate busing for the high school, as well as private high schools, and would only provide busing for students in kindergarten through eighth grade if they live two miles or more from school.
"Anyone living within two miles of their school of residence would not be eligible for transportation, with the exception of special needs students," said Matt Gaugler, business director. "So if you live within two miles of your school, you would be responsible for transporting your child or children."
Clark said that if the levy passes, busing would stay as it currently is — available for all students in grades K to 12 living one mile or more from school.
Twenty six administrators and exempt employees also would have their salaries frozen, which would save $18,000. Clark said the freeze would be effective next year regardless of whether the levy passes.
Without budget cuts or new funding, the district is projected to be about $3.7 million in the red by the end of fiscal year 2021.
Strong said the levy is needed "to maintain current operations, enhance student opportunities, and for the repair and maintenance of the facilities."
"Our buildings are in need of repairs and maintenance," Strong said. "Roofs are leaking, boilers need replaced, and the majority of our HVAC components are over 15 years old. All these permanent improvements are paid through the general fund."
As part of the cost-cutting plan, the district previously approved increases in pay-to-participate fees for athletics and other extracurricular activities and a hike in tuition for all-day kindergarten. Next year, student fees for high school athletics are going from $230 to $280 per sport. Middl school athletic fees are rising from $115 to $140 per sport.
All-day kindergarten tuition will also increase from $2,200 to $2,700 per year.
District Treasurer Karen Obratil projects nearly a $50,000 revenue increase from the higher fees, and nearly an $80,000 boost from the higher kindergarten tuition.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC
List of staff cuts
Cuts in staff include:
• 12 paraprofessional positions; even if the upcoming levy fails, some may need to be reinstated, depending on need;
• 15 student supervisors, which are two-hour positions in the elementary schools, Lee Eaton and Nordonia Middle School; their duties, which include lunch and recess monitoring, would be absorbed by other school employees;
• A part-time cleaner at Rushwood Elementary School;
• An NHS Intervention Specialist, which would be eliminated through attrition;
• Four high school Core Content teachers;
• Three elementary school teachers;
• A tutor at Northfield Elementary School; and
• An English Language Learner teacher; this one would most likely not be brought back due to decreased enrollment of ELL students, Clark said.
Public forums on the levy
The district and Friends of Nordonia Hills Schools PAC will have a series of public forums to discuss the levy.
• March 26, the Macedonia Recreation Center, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.;
• March 27, Nordonia Hills Library, 6 p.m.
• April 10, Macedonia Community Center, 6:30 p.m. This is a school board open forum;
• April 15, Macedonia Recreation Center, 7 p.m.; and
• April 23, Nordonia Hills Library, 10:30 a.m.