Additional staff reductions needed as state funding uncertain - April 28, 2009

Record Number: 4989
Displayed from: Apr 28, 2009 , until: May 28, 2009

Layoff notices will be sent to 108 teachers Tuesday, April 28, as state funding remains uncertain for Fort Wayne Community Schools. Last month, district officials announced the elimination of 49 classroom teaching positions as part of a $4 million reduction to curb spending as interest revenue has declined and other costs continue to go up. In addition to the teachers, it was announced that $500,000 will be cut from central office. Since that announcement, funding from the state has become more tenuous, with legislators considering moving $6.2 million in utility and insurance expenses from the Capital Projects Fund to the General Fund, requiring additional cuts to be made. "Making additional staff reductions was not something we wanted to do," Superintendent Wendy Robinson said. "But until the state determines how much money we will be receiving, we have to prepare for the worst. It is unfortunate that our teachers are being put in this position, but we are obligated to give notice by May 1, and we may not know our true financial picture by then." As FWCS is operating within the fiscal realities of the General Fund, officials are also working to use the federal stimulus money to improve student achievement. FWCS will receive nearly $7.1 million over the next two years to spend as the district chooses within Title I guidelines. Another $1 million over the next two years will be given to the district with more restrictions on where it can be spent within Title I. The district will also receive $6.8 million for two years in Special Education funding, with an additional $1.4 million designated for specific purposes. Because the stimulus money is targeted at two specific areas schools with high populations of children from low-income families and special education students the money cannot be used to replace the teachers being lost because of reductions in the General Fund. Instead, the money will be used to hire instructional coaches to work with teachers and student interventionists to work with students who need additional assistance. The stimulus money is being used to help restructure how services are administered in Title I and some Special Education programs and to provide consistency in the district's reading intervention programs from kindergarten through 12th grade. "We need to make sure we continue to reach students who need help early and provide the assistance they need no matter their grade level," Dr. Robinson said. "The stimulus money will give us the chance to start a program that will help students at every level." The district will continue to monitor its financial status as the state finishes its budgeting process and as FWCS goes through its own budgeting process this summer. During that process, FWCS officials will finalize the central office cuts.

With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.