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May 12, 2010

The Jordan School District will cut the equivalent of 190 full-time jobs if it moves forward with plans to save $17.5 million.

Superintendent Barry Newbold presented that recommendation and others for the 2010-2011 school year to the district’s school board Tuesday night.

Proposed changes announced

The proposed cuts include 23 administrative positions, 54 support staffers, 15 non-classroom teachers, and 97 other jobs related to programs. Some full-time employees would be moved to part-time jobs.

District spokeswoman Melinda Colton said, “We’re going to have a lot of positions — secretarial, custodial, hall monitors — they will be going from full-time positions to part-time positions, so that saves some benefits.”

The board also will consider moving seven elementary schools from year-round to a traditional schedule. The district says the year-round schedules mean more pay days each year for employees. The schools that would no longer have year-round schedules are Copper Canyon, Elk Meadows, Riverside, Rosamond, Silver Crest, Southland and Westvale.

The board estimates changing the schedules will save the district $700,000. “The principal will take a cut in pay for not being there all the time, and the custodian, and lunch people,” said Jennifer Boehme, a teacher at Elk Meadows.

Colton told KSL Wednesday was a really sad day for the district. “I think people are just still in shock, probably none more so than our own employees,” she said.

KSL spoke with several teachers in the district Wednesday and met mixed reactions.

“I’m a little bit excited about this schedule change,” said Tiffany Hardinger, a teacher at Silver Crest Elementary school.

Cindee Bowser, a teacher at Southland Elementary, has a different view of the changes. “There was no talk of that happening at all that we knew of. We were shocked coming into work this morning.”

Utah senator proposes alternative schedule change

Howard Stephenson, a Utah senator and president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, has another suggestion to save money.

In some junior high and high schools where the student population is growing, instead of building more schools, he wants a schedule similar to universities.

“That would take the current semester model and expand it to a third semester, so a building would have a 50 percent increased capacity without any cost to taxpayers,” Stephenson said.

He says this will keep property taxes down for Jordan School District residents while reducing class sizes as well.

“Parents could choose two of the three semesters for their students to attend,” he said.

Stephenson adds it allows teachers the option of teaching year round because all the teachers who could be switching schedules would get only 12 paychecks instead of 13.

That’s something that is worrisome to many teachers. “If that 13th paycheck doesn’t happen, my landlord doesn’t wait for rent,” says Bowser.

Concern grows over impact on kids

Although no teaching positions will be cut under the board’s proposal, ultimately many residents think students and classrooms will be affected.

For years, if you wanted to learn to swim in the Jordan School District, chances are you ran into Taresea Robison — but not for much longer. Robison’s job as a swim teacher and the pool at West Jordan Junior High are among the positions and programs the district is planning on cutting.

“Honestly, I think it’s really kind of devastating to the community as a whole,” Robison said.

No full-time teaching positions will be cut, but based on seniority, if an administrator, for example, has a teaching license and wants to teach, a current teacher with less seniority could be bumped.

“People won’t really know for at least a few more weeks on if they’re going to get bumped because of someone with more seniority could take that position,” Colton said.

The whole idea has Robin Frodge, president of the Jordan Education Association, frustrated.

“I was really surprised to see the school board is still making recommendations that have a very negative impact on students when they still have other options available,” Frodge said.

Those options to save jobs are increasing taxes, implementing furlough days and using capital funds. But the Jordan District says things like furloughs are just a Band-Aid.

“So you issue four or five furlough days. That means less pay for employees. It means children out of school, which is not good for kids to be out of school. And then we’re right back again next year where we are this year,” Colton said.

For some parents like Jolynne Alger, she’s just wondering what this all means for her children.

“It’s going to affect the classrooms eventually in one form or another, especially once the costs are passed down to the school that’s going to affect the kids,” she said.

The proposed plan is not final yet. The board wants to finalize the budget with a vote on June 8.

“The board is committed to making sure they have a balanced, sustainable budget,” Colton said. “Hopefully we won’t have to be going through this severe of cuts next year.”