Budget cuts hot topic in Seaford School District

By Lynn R. Parks

The Seaford School District had hoped next year to double the number of elementary guidance counselors it has. But now, in the face of projected cuts in state money, the district is predicting that it will not only have to give up that plan but will also have to eliminate the two elementary guidance counselor positions it has. It will also have to eliminate its full-time athletic director position and its school resource officer position and do away with the German program at its high school. "This is not a happy day," said superintendent Russell Knorr during a special school board meeting last Thursday night. The meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, was held early so that teachers affected by the projected cuts could be notified by May 15, the date required by their contracts. Knorr said that this year, the district has 290.5 staff positions. Based on projections in student growth for next year, the district had planned to increase that to 296, adding positions including two more elementary guidance counselors and an elementary band teacher. But under the projected state cuts, next school year the district will be allowed 271.25 staff positions. Knorr told the board that by not replacing teachers who are retiring or resigning, the district will be able to avoid layoffs. But 18 teachers will be reassigned, including current athletic director Tim Lee, who next year will go back into the social studies classroom. The district is advertising for a part-time athletic director. The two elementary school guidance counselors will also go back into the regular classroom. The district's four elementary enrichment positions will be cut to two: two of the enrichment teachers will cover two schools, one will go back into the regular classroom and one will become a reading teacher. "Our family has been decimated," Susan Nancarrow, principal at Blades Elementary School, told the board. As a result of the cuts, "we will have more children in the regular classrooms," Nancarrow added. "We are struggling to meet state regulations and requirements by the [Seaford Education Association]," the local teachers' union. "That is extremely difficult." "That is a significant loss of programs and services," Knorr said. "Losing that many staff members is like closing a school the size of Central Elementary," which has 28 teachers, he added. "This is a very tough situation." Knorr especially lamented the loss of the elementary guidance counselors. The Seaford School District was a "pioneer" in providing guidance counselors to elementary students, he said. "I find it very disturbing, with the way so many of our children live today, that we are losing guidance counselors at the elementary schools," said board member Suzanne Farris.

Knorr told the board that by July 1, when the state budget is finalized, the district's budget picture could change. In April, the state Office of Management and Budget asked schools throughout the state to cut their budgets for next year by 10 percent, a total of $80 million. A week later, that was shaved to just under four percent when the General Assembly came up with a plan to limit the state's education budget cuts for next year to $30 million. The 10-percent budget cut would have meant a loss of 50 teachers in the Seaford School District. "This is all still up in the air," Knorr told the board. "But if nothing changes, we will see a significant drop in our staff."

German possible victim of cuts
By Lynn R. Parks

Under a Seaford School District plan to reassign 18 teachers to achieve a projected four-percent cut in state funding, high school teacher Marsha Sirman would no longer teach German. She would be reassigned to teach English as a second language classes at the high school and middle school. She already teaches ESL classes at the high school. Thursday night, during the meeting at which the Seaford School Board approved reassignments of 18 district teachers, including Sirman, the parents of student Alison Schwinn asked the board to reconsider eliminating its German program. Alison, a member of the high school soccer team, was unable to attend the school board meeting because of a game. Reading a letter that his daughter had written, Glenn Schwinn told the board that the German classes was one of the reasons that Alison, a sophomore, chose to come to Seaford High School. "If I had known that the German program would be cut, I would have chosen Sussex Tech," Alison wrote. "When I came here, I was promised four years of German. I would ask that Seaford follow through on its commitment." Several board members suggested that students interested in continuing the study of German arrange to meet with Sirman after school. "They wouldn't get credit, but they could still progress in the language," board member William Parmelee said. And board president John Hanenfeld reminded the Schwinns that the teacher reassignments are not absolute until the state budget is finalized on June 30. "Keep your chin up," he said. District spokeswoman Bonnie Johnson said Friday that the district has been phasing out German over the last several years. This year, the high school is offering just one German class, German 2, which has six students in it. "We were hoping to be able to offer the students German 3 next year," Johnson said. The high school no longer offers classes in French. When German is eliminated, Seaford High will offer only Spanish. This year, Seaford High has three Spanish teachers. Under the projected reassignments, that would be cut to two. Spanish teacher Dell Swartzentruber would be reassigned as an English/language arts teacher.

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