Teachers on the chopping block in West Point schools

April 20, 2010 10:12:00 AM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


WEST POINT -- Approximately 20 certified teachers and 12 teacher assistants won''t be returning to West Point schools in August. 


The positions will be eliminated in the interest of shaving $2.3 million from the West Point School District''s budget next year, Superintendent Steve Montgomery said Monday. 


Several positions will be eliminated through attrition, but the majority of non-renewed teachers will be notified during the first week of May. 


All teacher assistants have received non-renewal notices and must reapply for their jobs. 


Principals at all West Point schools are performing teacher evaluations before recommending which teachers to cut. Performance-based factors such as student test scores and certification levels will be considered. 


Montgomery has already met with the entire district staff to warn them of the impending cuts. He anticipates a dip in performance will follow the cuts, but the cuts should spare the district from further layoffs in 2011-2012 when it will need to cut $3 million or more, he noted. 


"All school districts, because of state testing, No Child Left Behind and dropout prevention, hired extra teachers and assistants to help remedial students, pass tests and reduce dropouts. Now that they''re cutting our (state appropriations) budget, we''re going to lose those (teachers)," Montgomery said. "Higher accountability plus cutting the budget does not equal success." 


Another focus of the hiring increase, reducing class size, will also reverse. Classes of 15-17 students will grow by as many as 10 based on projections for next year, Montgomery explained. State law caps elementary class sizes at 27 students and middle school and high school classes at 30. 


WPSD currently employs 264 teachers and 72 teacher assistants with a 12-to-1 teacher-student ratio. 


Montgomery said the district has exhausted all other means of slashing its budget and must cut teachers.  


"We started out reducing services and line items, but 80 percent of our budget is salaries and benefits," he said. "I can assure you, I will not let this district get in financial shape where we have to borrow money to make payroll." 


Already, all district travel has been frozen, excluding field trips and student programs, and non-revenue athletic programs have been cut pending private sponsorship. Volleyball, golf, power-lifting, soccer, swimming and tennis will be suspended unless privately funded. 


The WPSD was forced to cut $2.1 million in state appropriations from its budget this year and has already lost teachers at all district schools.