story submitted –

(2-11-19) Tonight, at the Celina Board of Education meeting, Celina Education Association (CEA) presidents Steve Stewart and Eric Dwenger asked the following questions regarding the Board’s current reduction plan. The CEA is still waiting for a list of comprehensive answers to these questions.

  • Questions

On January 25, 2019, The Daily Standard published an article that brought to light the board’s wish to save money through several different cost-cutting measures. In that article, it was stated that as of 2021, Celina City Schools would have a balance of negative $491,231. Here are some questions CEA would like answered by the BOE and Mr. Sommer:

1) When were these cuts first discussed, and who was involved in that discussion?

2) We know this end balance (-$491,231) is based off of an incorrect five-year forecast. What is the end balance using the CEA’s actual contract instead of the OAPSE contract that was submitted to the ODE? In other words, when can we see a new five-year forecast?

3) In the article, it states that seven positions will be cut through attrition. The article states that this will save the board $466,800 and $475,000 in wages in 2020 and 2021, respectively. It will also save the board another $212,400 and $222,000 in benefits for those years. This is accounts for a total savings of $1,376,200, clearly offsetting a possible negative deficit of -$491,231. In fact, once the deficit is addressed, this would account for a profit of $884,969. Why are any cuts beyond these seven absorbed positions being discussed?

4) According to The Daily Standard, the preschool currently managed by the Mercer County ESC will be run by Celina City Schools. If the article’s numbers are to be trusted, this would account for an additional savings of $177,000 after staffing and other funds are distributed. If we combine both the savings from the positions cut via attrition and the preschool takeover, the district would be saving $1,061,969 (and that’s after addressing the $491,231 deficit). Why does the district need this much extra in savings?

5) Why are any other cuts (RIFs) being discussed? These first two cost-saving measures clearly do enough to address the deficit spending in 2021. Tom Sommer was quoted as saying the total amount the district expects to save if all cost-cutting methods are used, including the RIFs, is about $3,166,000. Why are we risking our district’s academic success for millions of dollars in savings?

The district has been working diligently to improve test scores and graduation rate and to continue to close our current achievement gap. The proposed staffing and programming cuts hinder the district’s ability to close the achievement gaps.

This district may not be growing in population at the rate that it used to, but it is growing in diversity. More resources are needed to address the increasing Marshallese population in the district. The proposed staffing and programming cuts will only reverse these efforts.

In fact, this reduction plan will raise concerns about what the district has to offer all its students. Reduction means larger class sizes; limited programs; fewer gifted and honors opportunities; less one-on-one time for students, especially those with special needs; and, most likely, lower test scores. Before such drastic measures are invoked, other cost-saving solutions should be explored.

Celina teachers and community members deserve an explanation as to why an inaccurate financial forecast is being used to implement a reduction plan that will sacrifice teachers and the educational well-being of this district in order to create an unnecessary surplus – a surplus that as of now, has yet to be allocated toward educational expenses.