The Silver Lake Regional School Committee met on Tuesday, May 12 during which time Superintendent Jill Proulx and the administration team presented nearly a million dollars in proposed cuts to the budget. A copy of the presentation can be found on the Silver Lake homepage. The Committee met again on Wednesday, May 13 to vote on the proposed cuts.
The cuts were categorized as either tier one or tier two. In addition to the elimination of freshmen sports and some expanded transportation, many positions including professional status teachers were included on the lists. Due to contractual obligations, some staff potentially facing a layoff must be notified by Friday, May 15. To vote in favor of cuts presented does not mean they will come to fruition. Instead, when preparing the budget, the list will be drawn upon when in need of cuts. Silver Lake Regional School Committee Chair Jason Fraser explained, “Tonight is not the end of the budget, tonight is the beginning of the development process. There will be some time for us to consider all of our options as we move forward.”
Proposed tier one cuts at the high school include the elimination of several paraprofessionals and the full-time wellness teacher. Tier one cuts at the middle school include a full-time special education teacher, a full-time science teacher, and the reduction of a librarian position.
Potential tier two cuts at the high school include a Latin teacher, a full-time tech ed teacher, a full-time computer teacher, a full-time special education teacher, a full-time ELA teacher, and a full-time adjustment counselor. Tier two cuts at the middle school total $144,000 and include a full-time math teacher and PE teacher as well as the remainder of the librarian position among others.
The presentation also included a few items where there will be savings this year that could potentially offset the need for as many cuts. With school closed since mid-March, expenditures for buses, utilities, and substitute teachers have been reduced.
Fraser began Wednesday by laying out the ground rules for the meeting which was being held virtually and boasted over 150 participants. Each committee member would be offered one opportunity to speak on any comments or questions they had developed since the previous night’s meeting.
Committee member Eric Crone noted, as did many others, that he was against many of the proposed cuts. Crone also said that when moving forward with the budget, he would like to see some new areas considered for cuts including technology costs and administrative costs. Committee member Laura Tilton said, “This is a really painful process… but the bottom line is we’ve been asked by the town to come in with a budget that is lower.”
Leslie-Ann McGee offered, “I think it’s a very difficult process to consider essentially gutting education as we know it at Silver Lake.” She added, “I just don’t want anyone to think that my yes vote tonight means that I’m in favor of all of the components of this package.” McGee noted she was only voting in favor of the package due to time constraints.
Committee member and Halifax Selectman Gordon Andrews asked if the teachers potentially facing layoffs were informed prior to the meeting the night before. Fraser assured him that they had been notified by their building principal and/or other administrators. Andrews also asked, “At this point in time, no other staff members could be let go that are under the union contract that do not get notified tonight?”
Proulx answered, “My understanding is that the notices go to the people who are currently in the position but some of those people who would be notified could, in fact, bump other people in their bargaining unit which could set off a need to notify other people.”
Committee member Michael Antoine asked, “I would like to know if the administration has looked at their own area as far as the contracts, we have going forward with them, if there’s been any talk of salary freezes or voluntary reductions in pay.” Proulx responded, “There has been discussion but no formalized decision regarding the freezing or reduction of salaries; that is certainly something we have discussed and considered and would consider.”
Before moving forward with a vote on the proposal, Fraser said that if salary modifications were considered, he would like to see it be across the board and not on the backs of any particular group.
The Committee proceeded to vote with the necessary two-thirds majority to approve both the tier one and tier two cuts as presented.