Proposed cuts to Talawanda schools raise concerns by some parents

OXFORD — Some school parents told Talawanda’s school board Thursday evening they are concerned about proposed $5.4 million in budget cuts to their schools and the impact on their children’s mental health.

The sweeping proposed cuts in programs, personnel and busing — including a cost-saving reconfiguration of grades at some Talawanda schools — were among the issues parents raised.

Some also cited concerns about the impact on children should art, music and physical education classes be eliminated, according to a story from the Journal-News’ media partner the Oxford Observer.

At the meeting, Talawanda High School Principal Scott Davie presented details of the cost-cutting proposal, which was triggered in large part by the ballot defeat of a proposed property tax hike in November.

ExploreTalawanda officials consider major changes to save money

Davie emphasized the importance of cutting expenses immediately, while also bringing back key programs that are set to be cut.

“This proposal would save an immediate $600,000, which is exactly what we need when we are forced to cut $5.4 million over the next few years,” Davie said. “We are also aiming to bring back big things like music, art, PE, prom and homecoming.”

Talawanda Superintendent Ed Theroux reiterated a theme he has been vocal about for years, saying the district is consistently short-changed when it comes to state funding.

“This issue comes from how schools are funded in Ohio,” Theroux told the meeting audience.

Talawanda Board of Education President Pat Meade said the budget reduction proposal will not be voted by the board on until March.

“I don’t think we’re going through with it right now,” Meade said. “We are in deficit spending but want to keep as many programs as possible at this time.”

Theroux said he and the board are also developing a three-year proposal addressing possible changes in bus service for students. He said that he met with the company that provides Talawanda’s buses and determined that switching to a “one-tier” bus system would save $200,000.

The busing cuts would involve eliminating service to students at Talawanda High school and only providing transportation to younger students who live more than two miles away from their school. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade would ride the same buses at the same time.

School parent Amy Shaiman also urged the board to proceed carefully.

“This is a huge change for our students, especially the young ones,” Shaiman said. “We need research and not just go off of our gut feelings and guesses.”

Ted Caudill, a member of the Talawanda Educators’ Association, said the organization amassed 95 signatures for a counterproposal.

“Neighborhoods should have value,” Caudill said. “We need to keep our kids near their neighborhoods as well as institute community forums. A change cannot happen in time for next year.”

As a result of the financial crisis, the board voted to lay-off a clerk and an assistant secretary at the high school, and switched two administrative employees from full-time to 80%.

The board also voted to renew superintendent Ed Theroux’s contract for five years.

Meade ended the proposal talks by saying some families will benefit while others won’t and that the community needs to be strong.

“Some families will suffer more than others,” Meade stated. “Budget cuts never help everyone.”

This article was first published by the Oxford Observer at Staff Writer Michael Clark contributed to this report.

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