FORT WORTH -- As many as 84 employees could be laid off as the Fort Worth school district looks for ways to cut costs, school officials said Tuesday.
The positions are 21 library clerks, 18 teacher assistants funded through federal grants, seven physical education assistants, and 38 other teacher assistants and auxiliary staff, according to a news release. Principals began meeting with affected staffers Tuesday.
Superintendent Walter Dansby cautioned that more cuts may happen as the district fine-tunes staffing levels before the 2012-13 budget is adopted in June. Trustees must give final approval.
"This is a very, very difficult situation that we're in right now because of the funding allocation we get from the state," Dansby said. "But I do know that if we do look at ourselves now and work toward being efficient, it will help us in the future."
The district will offer help to laid-off employees to find new jobs.
The proposed cuts are part of about $3.5 million in savings that administrators have identified and will detail soon, officials said. The district faces about a $40 million shortfall next school year.
At Tuesday night's school board meeting, about four dozen teachers, students and other supporters dressed in red to show support for the library clerks, and some elementary physical education teachers spoke in hopes of saving their aides.
Trimble Tech High School senior Jonathan Guadian, 17, said the librarian assistant at his school provides invaluable support to students and serves as sponsor to a club.
"These people deemed expendable are just the opposite of that," Guadian said. "They not only go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to their professions, they are our teachers, mentors and friends."
Librarians said that if they lose their clerks, they will have less time to help children with books and teach them about technology. They fear that circulation will drop as their time is spent working on tasks clerks did to keep libraries running smoothly.
Library clerks will be assigned to schools based on enrollment and book circulation at campuses. Physical education assistants will be assigned based on enrollment.
Charlita Smith, a P.E. teacher at Diamond Hill Elementary, told trustees that her classes average about 40 students, but that one class has 65. Her assistant provides crucial help by helping organize activities, monitoring instruction and managing student behavior.
"Many of our elementary schools have large classes. The assistant has a range of responsibilities," Smith said.