STOW – Although the board of education approved a resolution May 11 to make budget cuts of $3.4 million which includes reducing the workforce, Superintendent Tom Bratten May 18 at a special board meeting provided new recommendations.

After executive session, the board unanimously approved the amendment to the resolution that hired back three teachers who were part of the original reduction in force.

In January, the Ohio Department of Education requested the SMF district to have a plan submitted for reductions to address the cash shortfall of $3.4 million in the district’s five-year forecast submitted in November 2019, said treasurer Trevor Gummere. The SMF district had a negative cash balance predicted in fiscal year 2022 and was required by the state to address the shortage.

Originally Bratten recommended a reduction in positions, including three Technology Integration Specialists; one Core position at Lakeview Intermediate School; one Family Consumer Science position at Kimpton Middle School; one tutor position at Stow-Munroe Falls High School; three business positions at SMFHS; two half-time foreign language positions at SMFHS, French and Japanese; and one English-Language Arts position at SMFHS for a total of 11 positions which total $3.2 million. The remaining $200,000 will come from non-staff cuts.

Bratten said six teachers retired this year and they moved other teachers into those positions to minimize cuts to five "negatively impacted." The elimination of positions was strictly for financial reasons.

Three of the six teachers laid off because of budgetary constraints are being rehired. At the May 18 meeting Bratten recommended restoring the Family Consumer Science position at Kimpton Middle School and two half-time foreign language positions at Stow-Munroe Falls High School for French and Japanese. The Freshman Seminar position at Stow-Munroe Falls High School is reduced and the position abolished.

The combination of one full-time teacher and two part-time teachers reinstated equals a total of two full-time positions for $120,000, Gummere said.

"The superintendent and I will look for savings in the next year to help offset [the amount]," Gummere said. "We did receive $100,000 more than anticipated in catastrophic cost reimbursement this fiscal year."

The individual members of the bargaining unit represented by the Stow Teachers Association who are affected by this reduction in force, following appropriate transfers of selected individuals, will continue to include Carrie Harris, Miranda Kibler, and Lisa Mowls. Members of the bargaining unit represented by STA who are being restored/recalled are Jeannine Gurnack, Tessa Napolitano and Kelly Shifflet. 

"This doesn’t make us whole and we’ll certainly still miss the teachers we had to let go, but this is good news," said board president Jason Whitacre in a statement released by the board of education.

The administration worked for months to find savings and found much of the necessary shortfall in supply cuts and through attrition and retirements, Whitacre said. Finally, as a "complete last resort," the six teacher positions were eliminated in a unanimous board vote May 11. The board also abolished a one-year pilot program at the high school at its special meeting as part of the continuing conversation.

"That said, through ongoing due diligence, internal reviews, and community feedback, as the cuts left the high school with only a Spanish program and as we agree that a school of our size and nature should have more than one foreign language program, the board believed it was appropriate to continue its dialogue on these issues," Whitacre said.

The language programs had initially been cut in part because of low student demand.

"This is a reset," Whitacre said. "It’s another chance. Now student demand must match the opportunity."

More changes may occur with the school budget affected by the pandemic.

"There’s still significant uncertainty about next year," Whitacre said. "The economy, what will happen with the pandemic – much is unknown. What we do know, though, is that we’re very happy we’re able to bring back three of our teachers."