Archived Story

School Board slashes funds to balance budget

Published 11:38pm Thursday, May 9, 2013

Backed into a corner, Suffolk School Board members approved a series of cuts that avoided the superintendent’s recommendation of cutting 20 assistant teachers.

Teachers will not receive a 2-percent raise that had been proposed, saving $1.2 million, and 17 teacher positions will be cut, eliminating $835,000 from the budget.

In addition, employment contracts will be shortened to 11 months from a full year for all elementary school and some secondary school assistant principals, saving $77,326, district Finance Director Wendy Forsman said.

The move will only affect one assistant principal at middle and high schools that have more than one, she explained.

Also, next year’s legal fund, which Forsman said was expected to run to $250,000, will be slashed by $150,000, and the $1.2 million alternative education program by $200,000.

The cuts, together with several others proposed by Superintendent Deran Whitney that the School Board did agree to, come after the city passed a budget funding only a third of an extra $9 million the school district requested for 2013-2014.

Other cuts to the board’s original proposed budget include heating, ventilation and air conditioning replacement ($1 million), restorations to school allocations for supplies and other costs ($180,000), equipment replacement ($50,000), fewer textbooks ($190,500), reducing property insurance ($35,105), changing retirement benefit requirements ($600,000), a pay scale adjustment ($930,478), three non-instructional positions ($150,000) and priority staffing ($406,409).

“It’s not something we are proud of, but it’s a matter of trying to balance the budget,” Whitney told Thursday’s School Board meeting, where the revised budget was approved unanimously.

“In the seven years I’ve been on the School Board, this is the most brutal budget ever faced,” board Chairman Michael Debranski said.

Enoch Copeland echoed the sentiment: “In my time on this board — seven years — this appears to be one of the most gloomy times we have had.”

Then came Lorraine Skeeter, who has served the longest. There has “not (been) one like this one” in her 20 years, she said.

Easing the pain a little, Whitney noted that two of the three non-instructional positions and 15 or 16 of the 17 teacher positions are already vacant. “Fortunately, we will not have to lay teachers off at this point,” he said.

The school district needs to find an answer to future budget issues, the meeting heard, after about 300 positions have been cut in recent years.

Judith Brooks Buck urged those who appealed to the city for more money for schools to maintain the pressure.

“I don’t want you to stop speaking … because somewhere, at some point in time, this has to stop,” she said.

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  • reader826

    Here’s a copy of the ‘approved financial plan’ for 2013-2014. http://www.spsk12.net/files/2013/04/FY14-School-Boards-Approved-Budget-publish.pdf. Page 25 shows how those downtown got some nice little raises for themselves while crying poor and telling teachers that they’re lucky even to have a job. No wonder teachers are developing an “us against them” attitude and looking for other jobs. Do you think they’ll put out a revised budget based on the updates??? No, they’ll just restructure it to hide the money. It’s not really a great time to be in Suffolk….

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  • spdrltr

    Let’s see, the salaries of seventeen teachers are about equal to the salaries of five or six overpaid central office administrators, whose sole purpose is finding work to justify their positions (notice the use of the word “positions” not jobs). This usually means finding busy work for teachers, thus resulting in teachers spending more time creating meaningless inaccurate reports and less time planning and teaching. Is the public supposed to believe that creating higher paid administrative positions and losing seventeen teaching positions is going to help the students? Will someone please explain how, and while they’re doing that please explain why these lower paid administrative positions didn’t help the students? Do you mean SPS has had people in positions for years that weren’t helping the students?

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    • Lucia01

      Why are positions being CREATED when people are losing their jobs and the vast majority of us go without even a cost of living increase sufficient to cover the rising cost of our health premiums?

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      • Lucia01

        Also, how are we supposed to keep a solid pool of administrators if we arbitrarily slash a month’s salary from an assistant in each building (that has more than one)? It is May and these people will lose 1/12 of their salaries effective July 1. Let the migration begin… Then who’s going to fill the positions? Only those folks who can’t find a 12 month position! That makes for real quality (sarcasm intended).

        It is no wonder that 50 people have tendered their retirement papers.

        Our children deserve better than this! Now that I think about this… we employees deserve better as well!

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  • bo

    As a parent, and a friend of several teachers with SPS, I often asked them why do they stay in a district that cares very little about them. This is apparent in the lack of respect they have for them as professionals, how they are constantly expected to produce more with less, appreciate the fact that SPS has provided them with a job, and be greatful that they are receiving a steady paycheck. However, the steady paycheck is steady decreasing each year because of increases in cost of living, increase in health and insurances, and increase in additional paper work they are expected to do.
    Over the last six (6) years, these professionals have not received a raise or a step increase, (which in essences will affect their retirement payout because their salaries have not increased). Although the cost to live in this great city of Suffolk has tripled in the last six years, SPS thinks it is okay to keep them at the same salary, while increasing administrative positions. Consequently, when they don’t receive the total amount from the City, they decide to slash the budget by removing a much needed and deserved raise and step increase from the teacher, but increase administrative positions. We all rant and rave about the City Council not being good stewards with its funds, but SPS isn’t being good stewards of their funds either.
    At what point does the teacher and student become the focuse of SPS. I often wonder if the school board has any sense at all, do they even question some of these positions presented to them by the Superintendent. I even ask myself if the superintendent has any sense, adding and increasing unnecessary positions, while saying there is no money. Here is the biggest question I have, why is it necessary for all these administrative positions to have so much support and increased salaries, while the poor teachers, who are in the trenches work in deplorable schools, under deplorable conditions, and with no funds.

    If you ever questioned the dedication of these teachers, this should prove to all that teaching is certainly not about the money.

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  • Lucia01

    As a teacher with SPS, the parent of a child in the school system, and a resident, I humbly ask that the Suffolk News Herald investigate the reorganization of the central office leadership personnel.

    Some time ago, we were informed via an internal press release that this was coming and that it would result in no extra costs. At the time, I wondered how that could be predicted given that people had to apply, be selected, and assigned a salary based on their years of experience (as is customary in education). What fortune teller was available to predict a zero net salary gain or decrease???

    Now, appointments have been announced and I am still unsure about how many people have lost their jobs, the salaries of these new positions, and when the final total of positions will be determined. I do understand that the director of human resources has resigned or retired (don’t know) and that the Kings Fork principal has been appointed to the vacant position. This, combined with the departure of the Lakeland principal (to the glory land of Chesapeake), makes me question what these administrators know that we peons don’t.

    Reporters, help us out and get the organizational charts and the salaries to compare to the previous year’s. Please don’t just interview the school’s spokesperson. We need facts, not “spin.”

    Finally, it is enough that the city government operates with no transparency. Now “smoke and mirrors” seem to be the norm in Suffolk.

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    • am

      The first place to look is the division of the professional development coordinator’s job into 2 positions: coordinator of mentoring and coordinator of staff development. Then look into the addition of the 2 NEW Supervisor’s positions: Science and Social Studies. Add to that the new instructional specialists positions that go with each supervisor. There is no money saved here.
      As far as Whitley and Rice are concerned, Whitley’s move to Chesapeake will give him the opportunity to rise into the Central Office level of administration – something he was not going to be able to do with the smaller SPS system. Rice’s move may have more to do with the end of career/higher salary she will receive.

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  • hambone

    Next year this will happen again. But citizens do nothing. The only way to make change is have recall elections. But no one wants to do that. So next year we will be told again sorry no raises and again no one will do anything but complain. Where’s the local tea party at. Portsmouth had recall elections for mayor why can’t we have them for our mayor and city council. Our city and schools are being harm by there bad decisions so let’s vote them out with recall elections.

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    • thekytikat

      You want to recall the Mayor? Great!

      Where is the local Tea Party? Well, there are 2 of us on a consistent basis. We have a handful of other people who show up now and then. We do our best with the resources we have, but the we can’t do everything. We need help. Join us. Help change the city.

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  • Roger Leonard

    Without resolving the issues of support for Schools, the huge raises for some, and the many issues that do challenge us all in Suffolk to keep paying ever higher taxes; do we really have that quality of life some on council croon about so often? I think not and it is a shame, given what we could be…

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    • teach

      I not only get the pleasure of paying higher taxes in the city but also continue to not receive a raise year after year…not even a cost of living increase. This coming school year, a pay cut is in my future as well with the rising cost of health care premiums….I am feeling short changed….sadly.

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      • 7l

        The only rational response I see to decreased pay, increased health care costs, increased administrative burdens, increased classroom sizes, decreased supplies, decreased retirement benefits, increased retirement age, and decreasing loyalty from city council, is to decrease my own contribution. No extra hours, no work taken home, no phone calls on evening and weekends, no after school tutoring, no coaching, no sponsorship, no summer work, and no more loyalty to the City of Suffolk. Nothing else has worked so it seems the very definition of insanity to continue asking for help from a city council and citizens who do not care about the children.

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      • am

        the very essence of “teach to the contract” NOTHING (and I mean NOTHING) beyond the actual contracted hours.

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      • 7l

        I’m starting monday

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      • spdrltr

        I started working to the contract when we returned from spring break. I’m loving life -no homework – no worries .

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      • suffolklady

        I am in the same boat, teach. I am no longer going to be buying ANYTHING

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      • suffolklady

        I am no longer going to be buying ANYTHING for my classroom out of my own pocket. I am teacher, yes, but I work to support my family. All teachers need to go on strike as far as spending their own time and money. This is the ONLY way to get the attention of the SB, CC, and citizens.

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  • am

    The reality is that those who have the fewest years in the system are already applying and leaving to go elsewhere for more money and less headaches. Suffolk has become the “minor leagues” for our neighbors.

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  • Cat

    My comment followed Lovebug but was intended to reply to Kitykat.

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  • P

    The finger should be pointed at the City Council. They are the ones who cut the budget given the School Board. The School Board can only work with what they have been given. I for one am relieved to hear they aren’t closing entire schools in light of this. Teachers deserve more pay, no question, but the big picture is rather dreary.

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    • spdrltr

      Not only is the city council to blame, but also SPS. It wastes more money on its pet projects than one can imagine. Did you notice that they took the time, manpower, and money to complete a personnel reorganization and write new job descriptions not to save money, but to give personnel in the administrative offices a raise/promotion. Oh yeah, I forgot, this was done to better serve the students. Right! Who was serving the students while this nonsense was taking place?

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  • sillysal

    So, another year with no raises for teachers. Hmmmmm. What was it that our esteemed city manager said about “facing reality”? Seems to me the reality is to get some new faces on council in order to get rid of her.

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    • teach

      Did the city manager “face reality” by forgoing her raise? I think not. I do not care if she has done a great job and deserved it. Teachers continually do a great job and deserve a raise, but still help our students stay successful in spite of no raise for years. Shame on the city manager. I am tired of those that continue to get raises to say that us teachers should “just be happy you have a job”. How about they adopt that idea themselves and work harder for less money or the same money…yeah, they would be gone elsewhere so fast. Their paycheck even before the raise would have taken me at least three years to earn as a teacher as it is already. Sick of the chatter from those that continue to benefit.

      Suggest Removal

  • fedup

    It is a shame that our teachers are going without a pay raise again but the city manager is getting a huge raise this year. I watch my wife spend quite a bit of her teachers salary buying books, supplies, maintaining a laser printer at home in order to provide as good an experience as she can to her students because there is not enough in the school budget to cover these things. She must love the job to keep doing it, I know I wouldn’t work all the hours she puts in for my job. If I had known the amount of time and the money she would have to put into this profession, I would have encouraged her to look at other avenues as this is just ridiculous.

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  • Norseman

    To modern tale,
    It is too bad if she was a good teacher (effective) unfortunately there are very few ways to grade a teacher. The progress of her students should be the the main concern but alas that is normally secondary today. The children take a back seat to all the fluff the admin thinks are important and that will never change as long as teachers run the system aong with teach in it. If we can ever get to the point where the children are the focus and not the PC junk and the teachers union junk we may get to some real school choice.

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    • reader826

      Now teachers are having to create portfolios and giving students surveys to show they’re doing their jobs. This is insane! No wonder Suffolk is the laughing stock of Hampton Roads and teachers are leaving in droves! Suffolk is a broken system.

      Parents and students run the schools in Suffolk, the School Board and City Council are full of self-serving individuals who don’t even step foot inside the schools to see what’s going on. Wake up, people!! If you have a child in the schools, visit and see what goes on during a day! Those in charge don’t care. Time to get them out!

      Suggest Removal

  • Norseman

    The only way we will get a school system that can live within its means is to have choices. The books that we purchase are almost useless anyway, the teachers have to create interactive (home made) notebooks that are closer to the SOL. I spoke with one of the persons running for Lt Gov a few weeks ago and asked why all districts dont use the same book. She said the State can’t mandate which books to use, but they can mandate a test system that is used for benchmarking progress. I have been told by the teachers at conference every single year that the testing is flawed and the books are not usable.

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  • citizen123

    A modern tale…. Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a young woman. She worked hard in high school to get good grades so she could go to college and fulfill her dreams…to become a teacher. And she did. She taught for many years, obtaining higher and pursuing in depth professional growth so she could be of greater value to her school district and the students and families it served. Unfortunately, this came at greater and greater cost to her and her family because the school district was unable to continue to support her and her colleagues at the minimum level of cost of living raises, not even excessive raises. The woman, now no longer so young, spoke out to the City Council, the School Board, and her community which she so greatly loved. Sadly, more and more cuts were put in place to diminish the effectiveness of the woman and her colleagues as educators. The woman became discouraged. When she was required to create a document to “prove” her value as an educator, but only one of the seven standards was used to determine her value, she became greatly disheartened. When she read the newspaper this morning and saw the results of last night’s School Board meeting and recalled recent decisions made by the Suffolk City Council and Suffolk city leadership, her pathway was made clear. She prayed. She planned. And today she will submit her papers for retirement. A sad ending, indeed. The end.

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    • Roger Leonard

      This young lady need to plan to run for city council, and to bring greater insight to this failed body. Please run for a seat in your protion of the city…

      Also, thank you for your service…

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  • am

    But yet no cuts to the new positions at the Central Office level. Someone still need to show how “eliminating” 13 positions (changing their titles) and adding 19 (the previously listed 13 + 6 new) is ost effective when eliminating classroom level positions.

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  • thekytikat

    Lookie lookie… The school board was handed less money than they originally wanted, and they found things to cut in their budget to make do with what they were given.

    Now if only we could convince City Council to do the same, instead of viewing the citizens of Suffolk as a collective cash cow & draining more of our money away in the form of taxes an water rate increases.

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    • Lovebug

      The things that were found to cut were much needed raises, funding for supplies that have fallen on the personal finances of teachers who haven’t had raises in years, text books that student need to actually learn, and other positions as well as funding for heat and AC units that are breaking down. I don’t call that a victory or an example of how to cut costs! Its rather sad if you ask me. The level of education our kids are getting now is a serious issue and becomes bigger and bigger the more they cut.

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      • thekytikat

        On the plus side, the school board did NOT take the grant it was offered to pay for the pay raises – because once grant money runs out, it’s gone.

        It’s sad that the board doesn’t seem to have it’s priorities straight. The only way we can change the status quo, is to get good people to run in the 2014 election against the current School Board members.

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      • am

        Plus, they figured that the CC wasn’t going to pay the matching funds for the raise to go forward.

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    • Cat

      Excellent comment, even if from someone so wrong about the Sheriff’s race.

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