Paul Kreutzer will be working on potential revisions to his proposed superintendent's budget, after and revealing it to the public Thursday night.
After hearing from a cohort of parents concerned with class sizes and continuing discussions with the board of education through the weekend, Kreutzer will propose a few solutions for adding two elementary teachers to his budget by cutting expenses somewhere else.
"Our feeling is that we really want to do a better job in controlling K-2 class sizes," said Mark Lipton, board president. "So we've asked for information on how it could be done, but may still not make any changes."
If made, the additions could appease families from who turned out at both meetings to express concern about increasing next year's second grade classes from 17 to 23-24 students each.
"This group is unique because of its gender makeup of 31 boys and 16 girls," said Jeff Holbrook, father of two first-graders at MPES. "We have already had a trial run [in kindergarten] and the students were difficult to control. This year [with smaller sizes] we hear how much more productive they are. To consolidate would be a giant step backwards."
Kreutzer recommended the elimination of six elementary positions because of a decline in enrollment—nearly 14.5 percent over the last ten years, he said in his first budget presentation as superintendent.
"There is a birth dearth and a huge reduction in housing turnover," he said. "One of the big challenges this district has a drop in population in the lower grades. We’re trying to pair attrition with decline at elementary levels while trying to keep as class size as 'flat' as possible."
A total of 24 positions—16 support staff and 9 teachers—were proposed to be eliminated for a savings of approximately $1.7 million. Now Kreutzer is looking at finding $250,000 to cover the cost of two teacher salary and benefits packages.
He said Monday he was mulling some ideas to present Thursday night, but would only include those that took funds from another reoccurring expense, in order to narrow the gap between expenses and revenues.
Addressing class sizes is Katonah Lewisboro schools is not new. In 2010, a group of petitioners unsuccessfully appealed to the district to add a teacher to Katonah Elementary School in order to reduce the size of a first grade section.
that despite disparities in class sizes across the district, all students would continue to receive a high quality program, a perspective echoed by board member Michael Gordon Thursday night.
"It’s important that we not recreate history and we are all on same page," he said. "It is not the case that all the research has an unequivocal relationship between small class size and successs."
Student board member Jeremy Sabath asked if something could be done about laying off teachers by seniority, noting that the teachers usually removed in staff cuts are the newest and "not necessarily the lowest quality," adding that "we would be lying to ourselves if we said quality hasn't gone down" in recent years.
While the process for laying off teachers—"first in, first out"—is required by state law, Kreutzer addressed Sabath's comments by saying teacher quality "had nothing to do with a reduction in force."
"That is why we are doing APPR and staff training," he said. "We’re not picking people up to let them go again. We are going to stabilize the district over the next 24 months, and challenge everyone get everyone on board to figure out how increase in expenses are brought within revenues. Serious issues call for serious compromise and collaboration,” said Kreutzer, perhaps alluding to the expiration of labor contracts in June 2013.
Other budget items
The school board also reviewed the transportation section of the budget, which includes spending $1,146,000 million to replace 11 buses and purchase a radio communications system with global positioning devices.
The buses are 11 or 12 years old and are about two years past their replacement cycle, said Jim Minihan, transportation director.
On Saturday, in addition to the instructional budget, the school board reviewed several other, smaller cost-saving proposals, according to Lipton.
For example, the district will explore using the district's reserves as a loan to itself instead of using a tax anticipation note to cover expenses until tax revenue flows to the district's coffers. The move could save $27,000 in interest.
The next budget review meeting will be held Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the John Jay High School Library.