LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School System staff has devised a plan that avoids layoffs, though it requires employees changing schools and, in some cases, taking a pay cut.
The School Board will consider the plan during its 5:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday.
The board approved putting its reduction-in-force policy into effect on Monday after deciding to keep some of the personnel cuts that were included in the 2014-15 budget but which were never implemented by former Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The cuts that were ultimately approved impacted more than 30 positions, including 11 assistant principals, counselors and teachers. However, about 70 other positions that might have been affected were saved with a $5.3 million budget revision.
Bruce Leininger, the school system’s human resources director, said Friday that the staffing shuffle impacted assistant principals, while the reduction in teaching slots didn’t impact current classroom teachers due to two factors — a slight drop in Oct. 1 enrollment figures and some principals eliminating other positions from their budgets.
He said the assistant principals impacted by the board’s decision will be offered teaching positions.
“Usually when you have a RIF, you send people out the door. We’ve been able to move people around and no one has to be unemployed,” Leininger said.
The staffing changes are in compliance with cuts the board approved in September when it adopted its 2014-15 budget; however, that spending plan wasn’t implemented until recently, following the board’s termination of Cooper last month.
Before the board adopted the budget on Sept. 15, the school system had been operating under 50 percent of the 2013-14 budget. That was done because the board hadn’t adopted a spending plan before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Cooper refused to implement the 2014-15 spending plan that the board adopted in September, objecting to the cuts in it and to the process the board followed.
School system staff briefed principals on the staffing changes during the past few days, including the principal at Carencro High, who questioned the impact the changes would have on his school.
At Carencro High School, two counselors, an assistant principal and dean of students won’t be on campus when students return to school following the holiday break.
“That’s half of our administrative team,” Carencro High Principal Ken Roebuck said.
Roebuck said he fears the staff cuts will impede the progress his school has made in the past two years. He questioned the policy of staffing schools based on the number of students rather than the needs of students. Teachers are required to differentiate their instruction based on students’ learning levels and skills, rather than teach a one-size-works-for-all lesson, Roebuck said.
“You cannot staff schools based on a formula because you have to look at the student body and the challenges that each student body and each student may have,” Roebuck said.
Some of the positions now removed from the budget were originally added by the board due to the concern about discipline issues on campuses, Roebuck recalled. In 2013, the board approved a “safety package” that created safety officer positions on campuses to complement the existing school resource officer program.
Dean of students positions and additional assistant principal slots also were added at some schools to provide extra help, and the loss of those positions will be devastating to campuses, Roebuck said.
“We’re supposed to be here for kids. That’s why we’re here. There’s not one thing about this that’s in the best interest of children or teachers,” Roebuck said of the budget changes.
For about $1 million more, the board could have approved a budget revision that would not have disrupted staffing levels at schools. The board dipped about $8.6 million into its reserves account to balance the 2014-15 budget. To retain the positions it approved on Monday with its budget revision, it also used about $4 million from its capital projects contingency fund.
Interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune had identified more than $7 million the board could use to fund budget revisions, including $1.1 million in excess sales tax collections between July and October. With that $1.1 million, the board could have saved assistant principal and assistant dean positions, Roebuck said.
“That’s what I can’t grasp. If they didn’t have the money — absolutely, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. The fact that they have the money and didn’t do it, I don’t understand that,” he said.
On Friday, School Board President Hunter Beasley said he understands the frustration of school administrators.
“I wish we wouldn’t have had to cut anybody right now,” he said. “I think it’s not the best thing to do in the middle of the year, but I have talked to Mr. Leininger and he did indicate that nobody is losing a job. Everybody is being offered something. Whether or not they take it is up to them.”
Beasley said he would have supported retaining the positions rather than make the mid-year changes.
“I’m grateful that we went as far as we did into the reserves this year to keep a lot more drastic cuts away,” Beasley said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.