Sweeping cuts proposed for Ogdensburg schools

OGDENSBURG — Dozens of jobs could be lost in the Ogdensburg City School District this year as officials continue to wrestle with how to close a multi-million-dollar budget gap.

If enacted, the cuts could have an impact on everything from class size and discipline to course offerings and sports, according to city school officials.

The district’s proposed $47.2 million budget for 2019-20 represented a $4.4 million gap from the previous year. To help pare back spending, district officials have been working to make cuts, both through attrition and by the elimination of some current positions, including teachers.

Earlier this month the board of education received the rough draft of its tentative 2019-20 spending initiative, and since that time, administrators have been looking to trim costs, according to district Superintendent Kevin Kendall.

So far, he said as many as 13 proposed cuts are being recommended through attrition, and that more than 15 other current positions are also being eyed for removal in the new budget.

No departments or programs are immune from consideration, according to the school superintendent.

“Over the course of the last two weeks, the administrative team has been working to close a $4.4 million dollar gap in the 2019-2020 budget,” Kendall said. “The board of education has directed the administrative team to review the budget, looking at all areas of operation across the district.”

On Monday, the Ogdensburg school board was presented with the latest list of proposed cuts. Included were the proposed removal of teaching, custodial and other positions.

Dozens of local residents and teachers attended the school board meeting, lobbying against the cuts and the potential impact they could have on the quality of education if implemented.

School officials will have until the end of the month to keep or make changes to the list. The board is expected to vote on a tentative budget by April 1, according to Kendall. Taxpayers have their chance to ratify the spending plan or reject it on May 21.

Among the cuts being considered in Ogdensburg is the elimination of multiple elementary teaching positions, a move that, if implemented, would result in fewer sections being taught per grade level and larger class sizes, according to an impact statement provided to the school board.

Other proposed staff and teaching cuts include removal of a building custodian’s job, five teaching assistants, a motor vehicle operator, a per diem psychologist, a secondary ELA teacher, a special education teacher, a building and grounds position, a food service helper, a school librarian, a secondary technology teacher, an elementary reading teacher, a secondary mathematics teacher and a secondary science teacher.

The district is also looking at restructuring administrative duties so that the assistant superintendent will assume the duties of the CSE director, resulting in building principals assuming increased duties in the areas of curriculum, assessment and technology.

The school board is also considering whether to make changes to the junior varsity athletics program, which would move grade 9 athletes into the modified level and allowing grade 10 athletes to try out for varsity. A potential impact of the change may result in fewer students participating in athletics, according to school officials.

In a statement, Kendall and the board said the combined potential cuts could have other impacts on how the district educates children, including how their academic day is structured.

“As a result of the potential losses at OFA, we may have to return to the eight-period day, since fewer electives will be available to students,” the impact statement read. “We will also have to reduce our current requirement of 24 credits for graduation to the state requirement of 22 credits.”

Discipline could also become a factor.

“As well, adverse student behavior could have an increased negative impact on classroom instruction with the increased class sizes in grades K-12,” according to school officials.