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Cuts coming to Owen school district

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By Molly Haines

Teachers and teachers’ aides – primarily from Maurice Bowling Middle School and Owen County Primary School  – attended Monday night’s Owen County Board of Education meeting in hopes of receiving information about rumors of teacher cuts.

Several district employees cited a lack of a state budget as a major contributor to these rumors.

The Kentucky General Assembly ended its regular session last week without passing a budget for the next two-year period, which begins July 1.

Owen County School District Finance Officer Sheila Miller said a rough economy is also a factor in the possible cuts.

Owen County School District Superintendent Mark Cleveland said there will be teacher cuts.

“To be completely honest, it’s going to happen,” Cleveland said during the meeting. “There will be cuts. I just don’t know how deep they’ll be.”

Cleveland said many of the teachers and aides present during the meeting also held concerns over rumor of four additional curriculum-coordinator positions being added during a time of budget cuts.

“We will eventually implement those positions, but it won’t be right now,” Cleveland said. “The money is just not there; but when we feel comfortable putting those positions in place, it will happen.”

Cleveland said pink-slips are handed out each year and just because a teacher is given one does not mean that they will be let go.

“Every year, we go through a process of evaluating positions,” Cleveland said. “The monies we receive in our budget come from federal, state and local levels. In years past, we have been cut. Over the past four or five years, our expenditures have exceeded our revenue. You can’t keep doing that or pretty soon you’ll be deficit.

This school district came very close to doing that several years ago. It’s not pleasant or productive and it darn sure isn’t doing what’s best for the children.”

Cleveland said those who attended the meeting Monday had reason to be concerned.

“The people that came to that meeting Monday had very legitimate concerns regarding the addition of staff when you run the risk of potentially cutting staff,” Cleveland said. “(The Board of Education’s) job, even more importantly during these tough economic times, is to ensure maximum efficiency and to get the best bang for our buck and for the students.”

Cleveland said because of potential staff and budget cuts, the school district will need to become creative.

“We need to find different ways to be efficient,” Cleveland said. “We may have to put staff in different, creative positions that don’t appeal to them. That’s a huge concern of mine, but my biggest concern is the 1,926 students that I owe the best education, I don’t care how much money I have.”

Candi Osborne, a computer classroom aide at MBMS, said cutting aides would go beyond having an extra set of hands in the classroom.

Osborne said some students depend on teachers and aides for extra care they can’t receive at home. She said that she and others have chipped in to buy shoes and coats for students in the winter.

Miller said she was happy to see all of the teachers and aides who attended the meeting.

“I’ve worked in this district for 21 years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a lot of you at a board meeting,” Miller said.

Cleveland promised the group of teachers and aides that no matter what happened, he would keep the students’ best interests at heart.

“The students are my number one priority,” Cleveland said.