Schools chief says changes, cuts ahead
March 26, 2008
Schools Superintendent Debra Duvall has a message for the district's nearly
9,000 employees: Change is coming.
Grappling with an estimated $15 million to $20 million deficit next year, Duvall
has made a second DVD that will be shown in schools this week.
In it, the district chief says cuts will be considered in all areas, emphasizing
and defining the word "consider."
"(My message is an) effort to quell rumors, not create them," Duvall says on the
DVD, which was shown Monday during contract negotiations between the district
and union officials.
Duvall was referring to concerns expressed at the meeting that the district will
reduce nursing, psychology or speech staff at schools. But Duvall says in her
message that all areas, including administration, are being considered for cuts.
Duvall and her team already knew this year they must cut more than $7 million
because of a decline of about 1,500
students. That also means about 170 fewer employee contracts.
Even so, officials said they did not think anyone would lose their job,
primarily because of additional openings and retirements.
"They may work at a different place, but I don't think they're going to lose
their job," board member David Lane said in an interview.
There also is a proposal to close Jordan Elementary and move students to two
nearby schools, saving about $800,000 in the first year, mostly in
administrative costs. The governing board will vote on the closure April 22.
District officials estimate having to cut about $20 million in the upcoming
budget year, which begins July 1, because of:
• Declines in student enrollment, meaning less
money from the state.
• The costs of teaching students English.
• Increased costs of food, gas and other supplies, among other rising expenses.
Joe Thomas, spokesman for the Mesa Education Association, which represents about
4,500 district employees, said the district budget will ultimately be up to the
Legislature, criticizing lawmakers for ranking Arizona at the bottom of the
nation in funding for students.
"With the way they have operated in the past, we should know our budget around
this summer," Thomas said.