The Lawrence school board on Monday night approved nearly $341,000 of additional cuts to the district’s budget, bringing the board’s total cuts to about $6.41 million.
With a 5-2 vote, the board decided to cut an additional $177,441 to administration and $163,521 to learning coaches, for about $341,000 total. Board members Carole Cadue-Blackwood and Kay Emerson voted “no” in hopes of fewer cuts to learning coaches.
The district is facing a budget shortfall that is now estimated between $3.62 and $4.27 million. School board members were looking to make around $7 million in cuts to provide staff raises and rebuild depleted reserve funds, but they legally must balance the budget by July 1.
On March 28, board members approved about $6.07 million in cuts and decided to cut fewer librarians than what administrators had recommended; instead, the board directed them to find about $365,000 in cuts to learning coaches and administration.
Board member Andrew Nussbaum asked for further clarification about what the new proposed cuts would mean and what he’d be voting on.
“We will come back to the board as we begin to operationalize this. There’s a lot of moving parts,” Superintendent Anthony Lewis said, referring to some pending retirements and resignations.
He noted that some administrative cuts would be within the district’s central offices, but “we’re also looking at some of our building administrators as well.”
“We’re not losing those responsibilities and job duties, and so those will have to be shifted to some other administrators in the district,” Lewis said.
Emerson had offered an alternative motion that removed learning coaches from the cuts.
“There’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to the additional supports that are going to be needed in the elementary buildings,” Emerson said as she explained the motion. “We have some indications on what building leadership may look like. We know that learning coaches provide that additional support for our support for educators.”
Cadue-Blackwood seconded Emerson’s motion, but they were the only two to vote in favor of it.
Board Vice President Shannon Kimball explained that she was against the motion because the board needs to find $6.41 million in cuts in order to offer wage increases for the staff — a goal the board has consistently emphasized.
“As a board member, I have to put the money where we’ve been saying we want to put it for years and we haven’t been able to put it there, which is toward additional compensation for our staff,” Kimball said. “Each time we try to walk back cuts … every time we … say no, we’re not going to do it or we’re concerned about it, we’re making it even harder for us to achieve those longer-term goals in this district.”
Kimball also said she was “completely comfortable” with the administration proposal because the motion at the last meeting gave them flexibility.
“The balance that they have struck tells me that they think that there was additional room in both the learning coach program and in administration to make up that difference,” she said.
Along with the $400,000 that the board already approved, that would bring the total proposed cuts to administration to $577,441 — about 9% of the $6.41 million in total cuts.
In other business:
Board member Kelly Jones provided an update on negotiations with unions, and said she believes there will soon be a consensus that will allow for a “small increase in plan time for our elementary education teachers.” Jones additionally asked Board President Erica Hill and Kimball for a special meeting in May to further address wages.
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Emma Bascom (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from December 2021 through May 2022. Read more of her work for the Times here.