At Tuesday's board meeting the Williamsport Area School District took another step closer to balancing its budget, which started out with about a $5.4-million deficit in the fall.
The district will seek approval from the state Department of Education on staff changes that were outlined Feb. 7 and at Tuesday's meeting. A 6-3 vote gave the district's administration permission to present proposed furloughs and alterations of staff to the state.
"It says the frame work that has been presented," said Fred Holland, solicitor, "is to be presented to (the department of education)."
Dr. Kathleen Kelley, superintendent, again presented a proposal that would see staff reductions at each grade level, special education, and maintenance and security.
"We investigated every avenue," she said.
She also pointed out that it was not just one person or a small group of people that chose where to make cuts but included input from every building, calling it a "team approach."
Presenting the proposal again gave the school board an opportunity to ask questions and administrators a chance to clear up and give reasons for the cuts.
"These are challenging times and these are our best recommendations," Kelley said.
After deciding not to replace positions vacated by retirements that were seen as unnecessary to fill, the deficit shrunk to about $3.6 million - the district would receive an additional $25,000 expenditure for career and technical education services after not replacing the CTE director position.
Class sizes at elementary schools would be affected with the five classroom positions that would be eliminated.
"Classrooms at the elementary level will increase by at least one," Kelley said.
The middle school reductions were based on need, said Brandon Pardoe, Curtin Middle School principal.
"The middle school program is going to be a restructuring," Kelley said.
Pardoe explained middle school students, in the proposal, would shift from a 10-period day to a nine-period day, adding about 10 minutes to core courses. Social studies and science also would be offered longer but only every other day.
Pardoe explained students would be receiving the same amount of instruction time, but the longer periods allows teachers and students more time to perform labs and other class activities.
While the high school would save about $568,000 with its reductions, two positions in the proposed cuts had the most questions.
Board members said there were rumors floating around saying one music teacher being reduced could result in the elimination of the band, choir or other music programs. Michael Reed, high school principal, said none of the four music teachers were being eliminated, but it was a reduction in music teacher districtwide. It also was pointed out that no music programs would be cut.
Reed also said there still are more decisions to be made with world languages cuts.
"We have a little more work to do," he said.
He explained that it was the intent for the school to cut the German program, but as of 2:30 p.m. that was undecided as he received a letter of resignation from a French instructor. Reed asked the board to create a committee to look into what language to cut.
Along with cuts to special education, maintenance and security, and the district service center, it would take the deficit down to about $315,000.
Jane Penman, board member, wanted the board to have more time to make a decision on the staff reductions and have an opportunity to talk with the public.
"It seems like we're always backed against a wall to make decisions," she said.
"I feel a little bit rushed," added Brette Confair, board member.
It was urged that the board make a decision Tuesday as it affected the high school scheduling. The more the board put off the decision, the more of a scramble the district would be in getting students their schedules for the 2012-13 school year.
Karen Harris, board member, also pointed out that the public has had plenty of opportunities to learn about the cuts.
"School board meetings are open (to the public) all year round," she said.
Kelley thanked the individuals that helped to come up with the cuts, saying it wasn't an easy job.
"It's not easy to recommend cuts to programs and staff," she said. "We tried not to decimate any specific area even though some areas were harder hit."
She also spoke about the long process of making the recommendations.
"This budget process started in August when we knew we would have some financial problems," she said.
Dale Vollman, Confair and Penman were the board members that voted down permission to seek stateDepartment of Education approval on the staff changes.