Superintendent Mark Laughner says changes are crucial to making GCCS more financially stable
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, the Greater Clark County School Board will vote on the Cost Reduction Plan proposed by Superintendent Mark Laughner and his cabinet. If passed, the plan will cut the budget by over six million dollars in an effort to move the district away from deficit spending and restore cash balances, two things Laughner believes are crucial to making GCCS a more financially stable district. Laughner believes this plan uses money more efficiently, allowing for what he said is the ultimate goal, “Getting all the resources you can possibly get back into the classroom.”
One of the primary concerns for Laughner was the possibility of the Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) action. This board, created in 2012 by the Indiana Legislature, is meant to address school boards and other institutions in need of relief. According to Laughner, DUAB first looks to see whether a district has a plan in place to correct its financial state. At that point, they will often take action. That is a process Laughner hopes to avoid with the passage of the Cost Reduction Plan.
Greater Clark County will cut about 3 million dollars from both the Educational Budget and the Operational Budget. Here is a closer look at the changes in the Cost Reduction Plan:
Bridgepoint Closing (Savings – $800,000 per year)
Under the proposal, Bridgepoint Elementary in Jeffersonville will close, and its students will be sent to either Franklin Square or Riverside Elementary. Bridgepoint staff will be moved to the new schools proportionally, and certain staff will be reassigned to different positions. For Laughner, the decision is an efficiency issue, “It’s not financially efficient to have small elementary schools anymore,” he says. However, he also highlighted the benefits of the larger and newer elementary schools for students, saying, “it’s just a better environment.”
Corden Porter Site Changes (Savings – $500,000 per year)
The Reduction Plan will also seek to shift the Corden Porter program out of its centralized location in Downtown Jeffersonville to different locations. The high school portion of the program will be moved back into the Jeffersonville High School building, and the middle school program would be moved to Parkview Middle School. For Laughner, the goal for Corden Porter students is “to get them back to their home school” by allowing students to slowly immerse back into the school community, while still maintaining a separate area of the school for the students.
Elementary School Related Arts Staffing Change (Savings – $600,000)
In this plan, most related arts education would be taught by Related Arts Specialists supervised by four Related Arts Coordinators at the district level, who will be tasked with designing a consistent curriculum for the Related Arts Specialists. The plan also retains 1 certified teacher for related arts in each Elementary School. To attain this goal, the district will hire around 19 Related Arts Specialists and reassign 10 Media Clerks as Media/Tech Related Arts Specialists. Laughner believes this change, similar to one proposed last year, will “help us have a strong related arts program at the elementary level.” Laughner made sure to clear up some confusion, asserting that this plan in no way eliminates any related arts programs for elementary students and clarifying that it would not lead to the firing of any teachers.
Paraeducation Position Changes (Savings – $300,000)
The proposed Reduction Plan would reduce the number of paraeducation positions in the district. It would also usher in a hybrid approach in which some para-educators would be full-time while others would be part-time (29 hours). According to Laughner, the district would not take away benefits from any current paraeducators. On his decision, Laughner cited efficiency and the district’s difficulty acquiring paraprofessionals.“For years we’ve had a hard time filling para positions,” he says. He also said the district would be strategic to make sure this cut didn’t affect the classroom.
Other Reductions within the Education Budget
- Reducing 5 classified positions (Savings – $174,000)
- Reducing 5 certified (full-time) positions through attrition (Savings – $347,000)
- Reducing early childhood education (ECA) positions (Saving – $140,000)
- Contract Reductions for Administrators (Savings – $62,000)
- Readjusting grant spending to offset educational spending (Savings – $30,000)
- Attrition of other certified positions (Savings – $150,000)
Custodial Service Outsourcing (Savings – Estimated $800,000, but will depend on provider)
If the Cost Reduction Plan is approved, Greater Clark will advertise for an outsourced provider of all maintenance and custodial services. While Laughner can’t guarantee that all current custodial staff will keep their jobs, he does guarantee that they will be able to apply to the new provider. He believes the outsourced provider will be able to pay workers more and provide a solid benefits plan. Acknowledging that this plan may leave current employees feeling uncertain, he said, “One thing I can assure you is that we are going to treat our employees fairly.”
Two-Tiered Busing for Jeffersonville Schools (Savings – $495,000)
Under the proposed plan, Greater Clark will implement a two-tiered busing system for Jeffersonville Schools. Currently, Jeffersonville operates with a three-tiered bus model (different buses for each age group: high school, middle school, and elementary.) If approved, Jeffersonville schools will shift to a two-tiered system in which middle and high schoolers will ride the same buses. However, the policy could result in 10-15 minute longer bus drives for students, and bus drivers will now be tasked with dividing middle and high school students on the bus. Like many of the changes, Laughner believes the policy will, “allow us (GCCS) to be more efficient.”
Other Reductions within the Operations budget
- Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract (Savings – $ 524,000, but will expand over time)
- Reassign 2 permanent subs as bus drivers, and 1 permanent sub as an administrative office assistant (Savings – $135,000 per year)
- Eliminate two New Washington Routes (Savings – $91,000 per year)
- Estimated Reduction in the price of Service Contracts (Savings – $385,000)
- Reduction of Maintenance positions through attrition ($50,000)
- Moving bus drivers from collective bargaining agreement (CBA) leave to 2-day emergency leave (Savings – $236,000)
- Other operational adjustments (Saving – $323,000)
Outlook for the Board Vote
Going into the meeting, Laughner expressed confidence in the board. “I’m fairly confident that they see the issue at hand and that they see that we have to do something,” Laughner said. Laughner also said that if the board doesn’t approve the budget, he would be forced to “go back and look at cutting teaching positions.” For him the choice is simple: “Essentially … we have to do something with our budget. You can’t spend more money than you’re bringing in for very long.”
The GCCS board will vote on the Budget Reduction at their 6 p.m. meeting on Jan. 26, 2020. The public can comment on the plan via a Google Form and watch the meeting at https://livestream.com/gccschools.
*All price saving values are based on GCCS estimates
Story by Max Fisher