Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hickman Mills Proposes Teacher Layoffs

By Mary Kay Morrow
Hickman Mills C-1 is proposing to cut nearly $3 million in teacher positions -- approximately 50 positions -- for next school year.

"We'll try to give notice by late March to those teachers who won't get contracts," Associate Superintendent of Business Mitch Nutterfield said. "We'll have to tell them, ‘unless something changes, we're not going to be able to bring you back.'"

Nutterfield laid out the plan at a school board retreat at Holiday Inn on February 4th. Additional proposed cuts for the 2012-13 school year include $480,000 in central office administrative costs, $400,000 in building administrator reductions, and a $355,000 elimination of recess aids, a police officer, and intramural extra duty costs.

Nutterfield told the board that the federal government has notified the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that 2012-13 funding will be 85% of this year's funding.

"There will be no federal stimulus money next year," Nutterfield said. "Since it is an election year, there may not be a lot of changes."
However, last month Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proposed a record-level $5 million statewide increase in the K-12 school foundation formula. If approved, that would be the largest amount ever distributed to classrooms.
Nonetheless, Nutterfield presented more than $4.85 million in reductions to the Hickman Mills budget, along with more than $1 million in additional expenditures to fund Step increases for staff and additional benefit costs.

The cuts proposed for next school year fall heavily on the backs of the teaching staff in the district. This comes at a time when Hickman Mills may see an influx of students from the Kansas City, Missouri School District which lost its accreditation in January.
"This year, some kids moved in from KCMO but we also lost some," Nutterfield explained. 

Board members discussed increasing the number of students per classroom. Hickman Mills has traditionally been below the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) guidelines, which indicate "desirable" standards from 20 to 28 students per class - gradually increasing in size from K-2 to 7-12 grades. But the maximum could be as high as 33 in the 7-12 grades.

Last year, Hickman Mills originally laid off 40 teachers in the district. However, when state funding was finalized in late May, the district realized it had overestimated the amount of funding cuts. When all was said and done, 24 teaching positions (16 fewer than planned) were eliminated.
"This (academic) year, we were able to bring some people back because the budget was better than we thought," Nutterfield explained. "Hopefully, that'll be the same next year. We can't say yet."


Over the past three years, the trend in Hickman Mills has been to cut teaching staff and close buildings in response to dwindling enrollment.

At an administrative level, however, there have been new positions created as the district restructures its central office.

For this school year, for example, $700,000 was cut in teacher salaries, but administrative costs went up $44,000. Compared to 24 fewer teachers, only one administrative position, in Grants Administration, was eliminated.

The online organization chart for the district and number of chairs at the boardroom table have also increased. Last year, there were two associate superintendent positions shown on the district website which reported directly to Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams- Nutterfield and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beverly Phillips.

This year, there are four associate superintendent positions, plus a new Deputy Superintendent position.

The job once held by Phillips is now split into two Associate Superintendent positions--Casey Klapmeyer for Elementary Schools and Dr. Greg Rich for Secondary Schools. Dr. Phillips now serves in the Administration Center as Director of Research & Assessment, but is not shown online reporting directly to the superintendent level.

There is also an Associate Superintendent spot for Student and Special Services held by Susie Fanning. School officials explained that Fanning's former responsibilities were expanded.

"Fanning was serving in that capacity as a director last year," Nutterfield said. "That position was elevated, broadened, and given a new title."

Most of the new administrative positions were not posted and interviews were not conducted.

"Defining who is an administrator varies," Nutterfield said last fall. "Are there more, yes. Some of those were promoted from within the administration and got raises."

Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams maintains administrative increases were mostly the result of restructuring.

"The titles may have changed from last year - from directors to associate superintendents - but the number of direct reports in the superintendent's team remains the same," Dr. Williams said in September.

Dr. Williams has said Hickman Mills now has the same organizational structure as it did when she first came to the district 20 years ago.

Though enrollment has declined by 1,500 students in the last 12 years, the superintendent appears to be reversing her early efforts to reduce the number of administrators.

"When I was hired as superintendent, I streamlined administrative roles," Dr. Williams said.

For next year, the district will save more than $100,000 at an administrative level with the elimination of the Deputy Superintendent position, as Dr. Everlyn Williams will be promoted to Interim Superintendent as Dr. Marge Williams retires and the Superintendent position is temporarily vacated.

For now, administrators will continue to look at budget reduction options and move forward with proposed teacher layoffs a month before the Missouri General Assembly adjourns on May 11. Hopefully, some of those pink slips will be recalled after that time.

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