ARLINGTON -- Facing a room full of bus drivers and other school district employees pleading for their jobs, the superintendent and school board Thursday plowed ahead with massive budget cuts forced by reductions in state aid.
"It is with a heavy heart that I make these recommendations," Superintendent Jerry McCullough said as he started his list of cuts.
At one point, blue-shirted transportation employees gasped when McCullough announced his decision to cut 16 more bus driver positions than the 20 job reductions he had previously announced. The reductions would leave about 200 drivers.
The board's only job-cut action Thursday was to approve the first step toward eliminating 20 contract administrative positions, including an executive director, two directors and the district's two assistant athletic directors.
Some good news
The action identifies "employment areas" that will be affected by a reduction in force. McCullough said he will return to the board next Thursday with a list of specific jobs and the employees affected, and ask for their termination.
McCullough also outlined his decision to eliminate 48 noncontract administrative positions, which don't require board action. Those include the bus drivers and coordinators, secretaries and clerks.
Since early February, the district has eliminated 538 jobs -- more than 6 percent of the district work force -- as part of a $24.6 million budget-reduction strategy. McCullough has decided that the roughly 200 teaching job cuts will be accomplished through attrition and not layoffs.
The staff had some good news: The $48 million shortfall that the district was facing has dropped to about $38 million, in part because the district reduced its $13 million budget deficit by $5 million by leaving vacant positions unfilled and making other cost savings, McCullough said.
Still $10 million short
After the dust settled, the budget cuts still leave the district about $10 million in the hole, although officials don't expect to have final figures on state funding until June.