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About 50 certificated Mehlville employees could receive non-renewal notices today

About 50 certificated Mehlville School District employees could receive letters today — April 1 — stating they will not automatically be rehired for the coming school year.

Mehlville issued 30 non-renewal notices last year, according to district officials.

"This is considerably more than last year," Superintendent Tim Ricker told the Call. "It's due to our economic condition and fluctuations in enrollment and what we will be providing is the reorganization of a lot of positions.

"Obviously nobody wants do this ... If everything was considered equal and our (end-of-the-year) balances were at that 7 or 8 percent level, the state wasn't in the flux that it's in, and everything was stabilized, we wouldn't be doing this,'' he added.

In an attempt to slash the district's expenditures amid state budget cuts and insurance contribution increases, administrators were scheduled to present a trimmed, "gut-wrenching" staffing plan to the Board of Education Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — for fiscal 2005.

Adhering to Missouri School Improvement Program minimum certificated employee levels, administrators planned to present a report on full-time staffing numbers for each position in the district during the board's scheduled open session. The administration's potential staff reductions report, which includes job losses from attrition, retirements and enrollment changes, states that $3,095,901 in savings could be attained for the district with the possible personnel reductions.

During a closed session Tuesday night, board members were scheduled to consider a list of about 50 employees who would be issued non-renewal notices, upon board approval.

There is a chance that number could decrease by April 15, the district's deadline to solidify teacher contracts. If a certificated staff member does not receive a non-renewal notice by that date, the district is required to automatically re-hire the employee at at least the same salary paid the prior year. Before employees' names were submitted to the board for non-renewal consideration, Ricker said building principals and other administrators were scheduled to notify employees during one-on-one meetings Friday and Monday.

"What happens when we have these conversations today, people may decide to retire, which would create an opening, which means a person might come off the (non-renewal) list," Ricker said, noting that administrative positions and quasi-administrative and support personnel were reorganized and considered for non-renewal notices before classroom positions were examined.

Since central office administrator numbers already are below MSIP minimums — the district is short one administrator — staffing projections for central office do not change for fiscal 2005, according to a potential staffing reductions report that was scheduled to be presented to board members Tuesday.

Predominantly department director positions are going to be combined and reorganized, Ricker added, also stating that the district will experience a loss in its amount of assistant principals, counselors and some art, music and physical education positions.

After examining the district's enrollment shifts, Ricker said, some classroom personnel will receive non-renewal notices as well.

"Everybody has opinions on what should go first, what should go last and how that all works ...," he said. "Anytime you affect people's jobs, that's heartbreaking — that's hard. It's an awesome responsibility on the part of the building principals, the central office staff, the Board of Education. When they talk about the livelihood of people, it's just as important as the responsibility that everybody has for the future of the kids. There's a balance that has to be struck. And that's tough."

The total potentially saved by the reduction of administrative staff, according to district documents that were scheduled to be presented to the board Tuesday, is $431,087.

Board members were not scheduled to take action on the reductions plan. They are scheduled to review a first draft of the budget during a board meeting May 11.

According to the administration's potential staffing projections, Blades and Trautwein Elementary schools, which currently have one full-time assistant principal for each school, could share an assistant principal during the 2004-2005 school year. Eliminating one full-time assistant principal position, according to district documents, could save the district $99,087.

The district currently has 11.8 certificated director positions, but the staff reductions plan indicates that the district could only have 8.8 certificated director positions next year.

The bulk of the change would come from combining art, physical education and music, all of which currently have three separate directors. Currently the art and music directors are full-time positions, while the PE directorship takes up half of that employee's duties. The positions next year could be combined to create a fine arts/practical arts/PE director. The elimination of 2.5 directors, plus changing the community education director from a full- to a half-time post, potentially could save the district $276,000. Reducing secretarial support for those directors, which could eliminate two net positions, also could save the district $56,000.

Reductions in district and building certificated service personnel could save the district $716,992, the report states, while reductions to the district's teaching staff could save Mehlville $1,947,822, according to the potential staff reductions report for fiscal 2005.

Middle school teachers, based on attrition and enrollment changes, take the biggest hit, losing 20 positions, potentially saving the district $800,000. Also, 10 elementary positions are suggested to be reduced, saving the district $400,000, while $160,000 could be saved with the elimination of four high school teaching positions.

The report also states that the reduction of about five guidance counselors districtwide, based on MSIP minimums, could save Mehlville $200,000.

Reductions in 5.5 reading specialist positions also could save $387,822. Savings gained from the loss of two district PE teachers due to enrollment projections could save the district $80,000, while the elimination of one art teaching position and two district library positions could realize $120,000 in savings.

Four health room assistants for kindergarten through eighth grade might reduce costs by $32,388 and the loss of three nursing services positions could save $112,491.

Other various reductions and the restructuring of responsibilities for activities directors, could result in a budget impact of $332,113.

Despite the district's economic situation, the superintendent said Mehlville is not imposing a freeze on offering tenure to teachers. After five years with the district, a teacher is eligible for tenure.

The tenured staff is protected, in most cases, he said, from receiving non-renewal notices.

"If there are reductions, based on enrollment or economic conditions, the building principal decides which one of those people from year one to year five are kept and which ones are not renewed. And they can be non-renewed as a result of unsatisfactory performance or they can be non-renewed as a result of economic and enrollment decisions,'' he said.

The district gives employees non-renewal notices yearly, Ricker said, and then Mehlville hires more employees over the summer once it knows its budget situation better. Last year, he said, the district hired 80 employees during the summer, some of whom included employees who had received non-renewal notices. But there is no way to predict, he said, how many positions the district will be able to hire this summer.

"We've had this kind of discussion about the budget all year long and now it's really coming to fruition ...," Ricker said. "Most people don't really listen to that until it really affects them ... Now the realities are really going to start to turn in and come to be, so people are going to want to be more informed. Some of the things that we do administratively they won't like. Nobody wants to do this. We don't want to do it. Our board, you'll see them Tuesday night — this is going to be gut-wrenching for everybody because we have a quality school district and we want to keep a quality school district for the kids.

"But, as I've said before, there isn't anything that we do financially that doesn't affect the kids. Saying otherwise is just fanciful and false,'' he added.

Salary negotiations with employee groups will take place in April.

The Lindbergh School District issued four non-renewal notices, according to Rick Francis, the district's assistant superintendent of personnel.

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