The superintendent of the Rochester City School District is painting a clearer picture of the timetable for proposed teacher layoffs and other cuts.
The actions are meant to help deal with a growing budget deficit, identified this year as $30 million.
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Terry Dade says he never anticipated such dire straits when he started the job last summer. The superintendent of schools says the district’s budget mess is now his responsibility to fix, which could total as high as $65 million.
“It is absolutely my responsibility to make some tough decisions now,” said Dade. “So we're not facing this in the years to come."
Dade laid out a timetable for staff and program cuts. He proposed a 5 percent cut in teaching, civil service, assistant, and administrative jobs, a savings of nearly $10 million. Some programs, including elementary summer school, would also be put on hold. Mandated teaching and assistant positions, including special education, are considered untouchable.
“I thought that I would never be making cuts at the mid-point of a school year,” said Dade. “That said, the longer we move this can down the road, the more those numbers are going to shift."
The union representing school teachers responded to the cuts.
“I wouldn't want his job right now,” said Michael Tobin, a teacher and chair of the Rochester Teachers Association’s action committee. “But a 5 percent cut for teaching is going to be really challenging."
Tobin says students are already speculating on which teachers might be cut. With years of dysfunction and budget issues originating from district headquarters, he’s not surprised by the latest move.
“Being this far off two years in a row, that's someone down on Broad Street,” said Tobin. “That's not our teachers and not our students. And we're going to bear the brunt of this, and that's totally unfair."
Student enrollment in RCSD has shrunk by more than 3,000 since the 2014-15 school year. At the same time, the district has added 600 positions.
Dade believes cuts can happen with minimal impact on the classroom.
Letters will be sent out by district human resources next week to those affected by the cuts. The RCSD school board is expected to vote on the superintendent's proposal at its December 19th meeting.
Dade says he'll continue to lobby state lawmakers for funding. He plans to ask for at least $20 million, despite Albany's own financial crunch. As bad as things seem now, he says it's his responsibility to make them better.
“I believe with the right folks in the right places and the right plan, and all coming together remaining focused on that plan as a district, we can do more with less,” he said.