WEATHERFORD -- Preparing for what is expected to be a "colossal loss" in state funding, Weatherford school trustees approved $3 million in budget reductions Thursday that will result in the loss of 44 positions and the closing of one building.
The board also voted to declare financial exigency, or emergency.
This "is a big red flag we are waving," Superintendent Deborah Cron said.
For the upcoming school year, the board is eliminating 22 teachers (13 elementary school, two middle school and seven high school); four administrators; four campus paraprofessionals; two district-level paraprofessionals; three campus support professionals; and seven district support professionals. Two other administrative positions will be reallocated.
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Additionally, 28 first-year teachers with probationary contracts were asked to resign or be terminated, though Cron and Deputy Superintendent Holly Teague said they should be rehired as a result of attrition from retirement or resignations.
Tracy Ray, assistant superintendent for business and operations, told school board members that the Human Resources Department is "diligently" checking certifications of those probationary teachers to see whether they qualify for other current open positions.
Ray said Cron, along with Human Resources Director Richard Crosby, met with affected teachers Wednesday to let them know that they will be given first consideration for open positions. Cron added that first-year teachers in the state's designated shortage areas (math, science, bilingual and special education) will remain on staff.
Student-to-teacher ratios were also changed. The district will maintain a 22-to-1 ratio for kindergarten and first grade. But it will have a 25-to-1 ratio for grades two to four, 28-to-1 for grades five and six, and 30-to-1 for grades seven to 12.
With the closing of the Travis Student and Family Education Center, two departments -- Community Education and most of Special Programs -- will relocate to the Ninth Grade Center.
The district will also reduce departmental and campus budgets by 5 percent; cut staff travel by 40 percent; and charge students $60 a school year to participate in extracurricular activities.
Additional cost-saving or budget-reducing items still being considered by district administrators were not presented at Thursday's meeting.
"Our district could lose as much as $10.8 million from the state" based on a $60 million budget, Ray said.
Before the vote, board Vice President Charlie Martinez voiced his concern over what trustees were being asked to do.
"At this point, I think it's appropriate for the [Legislature] to come in and tie our hands because that's what they've done to us," he said. "I'm very sad about that."
Melissa Winn, 817-594-9902, ext. 104