Manassas school budget calls for staff cuts

March 4, 2013

Confusion about the number of layoffs proposed for Manassas public school teachers was cleared up at a School Board meeting Tuesday. But the news wasn’t all good.

School Superintendent Catherine Magouyrk presented her $106.7 million budget for 2013-14. It would eliminate fewer than 13 full-time teacher and support staff members in the eight schools, with only 31 / 2 of them being certified teaching positions.

Many school employees packed the City Council chambers after reading a recent letter from Magouyrk that seemed to suggest the possibility of eliminating 111 positions at the various schools.

Soon afterward, Magouyrk published a letter on the schools Web site saying that the teachers had misinterpreted what the letter meant and that the 111 figure was only a placeholder for the number of teachers who were not fully funded by the state.

For the first time, the school system conducted a zero-based budget analysis, which required principals to analyze their budgets from scratch and make recommendations on what they could live without.

The budget also calls for eliminating about 151 / 2 bus driver positions, or about 25 percent of the transportation department staff. Magouyrk said eliminating bus driver positions was possible by adding a fourth starting time. Currently, Metz Middle and Osbourn High schools have the earliest starting time, at 7:30 a.m., followed by Mayfield Intermediate School and then the five elementary schools.

Schools spokeswoman Al Radford said more details will be released about the cost and effect of the bus driver proposal during a budget work session Thursday.

Metz Middle teacher Jenny Higginbotham said she was surprised by the bus driver layoff announcement. Higginbotham runs the in-school suspension at Metz and is an education support professional member in the Virginia Education Association. She often hears from her fellow members, who include bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers. But until Tuesday, she had heard nothing from the bus drivers.

“I am not sure yet how many [drivers] were at the meeting or how many had been told yet,” Higginbotham said.

School Board members Timothy J. Demeria and Arthur P. Bushnell liked what they saw of the budget, which includes a 2 percent step increase for teachers. In the 22 years he has served on the board, Bushnell said, it’s the first time he can remember not seeing the rainy day reserve being proposed for operational or capital expenses.

“It’s refreshing to see that as the starting point,” Bushnell said.

There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget March 12. The board is schedule to vote March 19.

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