Superintendent: CPS to eliminate 200 positions by next school year

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan says Cincinnati Public Schools will eliminate more than 200 staff positions for next school year to help meet the district's fiscal challenges and balance its budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The reductions will be officially announced during the Cincinnati Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 25, 2011.

"We have been downsizing for many years in CPS, so the additional position cuts will not be easy to absorb," said Ronan. "At the same time, we recognize the importance of working more effectively and productively with fewer resources during these very challenging economic times."

The 208 position reductions include 33 central office employees, 158 teachers and 17 additional school-based employees.

Ronan said additional cost-cutting steps taken by the Tri-State's largest public school district include relocating two high school programs – Western Hills Engineering and Withrow International – into other schools, resulting in lower staffing.

Work also is under way to explore funding partnerships for school services such as school health and extracurricular activities, as well as potential outsourcing of some central office functions, she added.

"It is crystal clear that we must stretch ourselves to be creative problem-solvers and look to innovative ways to support our students while lowering our bottom line," Ronan said.

The reductions are necessary to overcome more than $45 million in state and federal funding cuts and $20 million in reductions needed to offset increases in non-discretionary district costs, such as utilities and tuition payments for students who attend charter, voucher and special-placement schools serving the disabled or other students with extraordinary needs, Ronan said.

She noted that the budget impact could have been worse without recent contract negotiations resulting in no across-the-board pay increases for district employees and a doubling of employee health-care contributions to 20 percent of the costs.

"We knew we had to downsize," said CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan. "There's lots of turnovers, there's terminations, there's resignations, they're retirements and we have just not been filling anything for the past year because we knew this funding cliff was really coming."

Ronan said they've cross-trained employees, asking them now to do the jobs of two people instead of one.

Additional funding, beyond 5-thousand dollars per student is gone in the new year.

"A special education youngster who may cost 10, 20, 30-thousand dollars to educate because they have a 1-on-1 aid or nurse or are transported in an ambulance, they don't get any special funding, we just get the 5-thousand dollars," Ronan said.

CPS has more than 7-thousand students with disabilities in the District.

"What kind of partnerships are you exploring to maintain your excellence?," we asked. "Because if you can't even get those kids to school, or get them the attention they need, how will you maintain the level you've had for so long?"

"That would probably be my biggest worry," Ronan said. "We got our effective rating because we were able to put additional teachers, tutors, coaches in the classroom, well all of those things are gone and won't be coming back."

Ronan has also seen an increase in the number of voucher students, close to 3-thousand at the Kindergarten-level, who have left.

"How are you going to keep students in CPS, when they could get a voucher to go to a parochial school or private school where they might get more attention?," we asked.

"Well, our class sizes in Cincinnati Public Schools are very comparable to our private and parochial schools."

Teachers may no longer have tutors or aides, but they will not be overloading classrooms, maintaining a state mandate of 25 students per 1 teacher.

But what about teachers taking-on the duties of school nurses?

"If you're not a trained nurse, that could be a little intimidating to a teacher, who's already got additional responsibilities lumped-on," we asked.

"We are probably looking at maybe having health aides in our schools, supervised by registered nurses, it's a more cost-effective model," Ronan said.

CPS has been closing schools and reducing staff over the past decade. Since the 2001-02 school year, more than 1,100 positions have been eliminated and 17 schools have been shuttered.

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