Lincoln schools cut elsewhere to save teaching positions

Lincoln County School District has restored funding for all of the teacher positions it had planned to eliminate in February. The Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday night to make seven other cuts and changes totaling almost $450,000 in savings in order to save 11 teaching positions and 12 classified staff positions.

Superintendent Michael Rowe recommended the new cuts and changes to the board before it quickly voted to approve them. The cuts and changes Rowe recommended are:

• elimination of district general funding for district instructional coaches, cutting 3.2 full-time equivalent positions;

• elimination of the transportation data specialist secretary position, a job created in the wake of a fatal 2014 wreck involving a school bus;

• elimination of one social service worker position;

• utilizing existing staff in the central office to cover the job duties of a counselor for the Fort Logan school;

• using about $62,000 from the exceptional child program to pay for part of a school bus;

• “change or blend things” for the district’s English language learners and allocate eight-tenths of a full-time teacher position in this area instead of a whole full-time position; and

• decrease the district’s instructional resources budget by $50,000.

The total savings from all seven items is estimated at $446,887.

“If that is approved, again, the next two items on the agenda are to give our (teacher) positions back to our schools,” Rowe said.

Preliminary versions of Rowe’s recommended changes included the possible elimination of a bus mechanic position and a reduction to the out-of-school instructor position that meets with children who are homebound. Members of the public commented on those proposals at the beginning of Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, asking the board to reconsider eliminating the positions. But those positions were both ultimately preserved in the final recommendation Rowe gave to the board.

Lincoln County Board of Education Chair Tom Blankenship leads Thursday’s board meeting. (Photo by Ben Kleppinger)

After the board voted unanimously to accept the recommended cuts and changes, it proceeded to change the teacher-to-student ratio for fourth through 12th grades back to 25-to-1, where it is this year. In February, the board had tentatively raised the ratio to 28-to-1 in anticipation of deep funding cuts from the state.

The board then also voted unanimously to restore funding it had cut in February for “Section 7” positions, including instructional assistants. The restoration of Section 7 funding included a minor upgrade to provide school technology coordinators at the middle school and high school. District Finance Officer Marsha Abel said the elementary schools already all have such a position, and upgrading positions at the middle and high school will only cost about $500 annually.

School year extended to May 29

Lincoln County students will be in school until the Tuesday after Memorial Day. The Board of Education extended the school year on Thursday, as many teachers prepared to travel to Frankfort for protests at the Capitol the next day.

The school district announced Wednesday it would close on Friday because of how many teachers were taking off for the protests.

Lincoln County High School graduation will still take place on Friday, May 25 — the board voted to waive a normal requirement that graduation occur after the final day of classes. But students will have to return after the three-day holiday weekend for one more day at school. The final day for teachers is now Wednesday, May 30.