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Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Parkway board lays off 4 employees

By Tom Stankard
ROCKFORD - Four Parkway Local Schools employees have been laid off in response to the district's projected deficit spending.
School board members on Tuesday voted three-to-one to suspend the contracts of elementary school teacher Tara Baltzell, middle school teacher Jennifer Smith, high school teacher Jessica Rolfes and media specialist Abbie Hathaway. Combined, the four employees have 53 years of experience with the school, according to district treasurer Debbie Pierce.
Members came to the decision after emerging from a 30-minute executive session.
Member Matt Swygart cast the only "no" vote, saying this morning he "wasn't ready to support the presented motion at the time."
Pierce said the district had 77 teachers this past school year. The reductions will increase the student-teacher ratio by one student to 14-to-1. This is lower than the state average of 17 and maximum of 25.
Superintendent Jeanne Osterfeld previously said officials would factor in student enrollment, class sizes, qualifications for positions and whether other personnel could fill the positions when deciding how to proceed with any changes in staff.
"The community has entrusted us with taxpayer money, and it is important that we do everything that we can to be fiscally responsible in all our decisions," Osterfeld had told the newspaper. "Planned reductions will not affect student education."
The action came in response to Pierce's most recent five-year financial forecast, which showed deficit spending of $143,711 for fiscal year 2017, which ends June 30, and an anticipated deficit of $410,960 for fiscal year 2018, which starts July 1.
Officials also have cut four other positions through attrition, by eliminating a guidance counselor, a physical education and two special education positions. Factoring in the cuts through attrition, Pierce predicted deficit spending to fall to $240,694 by fiscal year 2019. The suspension of the four teachers' contracts will eliminate the deficit and give the district a surplus of $5,870 by fiscal year 2019, according to Pierce's report.
She said she had anticipated deficit spending in her previous forecast in October, writing in her report that she expected tax revenue to fall significantly due to "a leveling out of the Current Agricultural Use Value" but not to this extent. In the October forecast, she had estimated the district would be overspending by $88,853 for this fiscal year.
When comparing October's forecasted expenditures to current numbers, Pierce said costs for purchased services rose $158,348 to $1.241 million, fringe benefits rose $83,792 to $2.735 million, and salaries rose $77,363 to $6.423 million.
Board member Jeff Armstrong, who was absent but participated via speakerphone, said he wanted to know the reason why the estimated deficit rose by more than $322,000.
Pierce said "both are estimates of predicted expenditures, historical information and planned expenses in the budget."
Armstrong wasn't satisfied with Pierce's response, saying, "You should be able to give a better explanation than this was a guess."
He added the taxpayers deserve a better answer.
"We need to give them detailed answers as to why, where and what we are spending our money on," he said.
Significant expenditures that Pierce said she didn't foresee were bus repairs and new basketball bleachers, both of which the board approved in March.
Another looming expense is the replacement of football stadium bleachers due to safety concerns.
A large crowd of staff and concerned residents attended the meeting, but no one spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Resident Reed Shaffer, who has four grandchildren in the district, told the newspaper he's disappointed.
"I've got a strong concern about where this deficit came from. Other schools, when they get short on money, they do away with sporting programs. They don't get rid of teachers," he said.
Board member Melissa Burtch and Armstrong told Pierce to provide a better explanation at July's meeting.
In other action to save the district money, members accepted the voluntary requests of Osterfeld, Pierce, high school principal Brian Fortkamp, middle school principal Brian Woods and elementary school principal Mark Esselstein not to receive pay raises for the 2018-2019 school year.
Also on Monday, board members,
• also approved a 2 percent pay increase for classified staff for 2019-2020 school year and 1 percent increase for the 2020-2021 school year.
• learned all third-graders passed their readiness test required to advance the fourth grade.   
• approved issuing continuing contracts for teachers Kathryn Stover and Elizabeth Streib, effective the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
• approved membership with the West Central Ohio Assistive Technology Center for the 2018-2019 school year at a rate of $900.
• approved an overnight field trip request of Alan Post to Carrolton from June 25-June 29 to attend FFA Camp Muskingum. About six students will participate.
• approved an overnight field trip request of Jordan Henkle to Findlay from July 13-14 to attend volleyball camp. The trip will include about 12 students.
• approved numerous supplemental contracts for the 2018-2019 school year.
• approved the 2018-2019 coaches handbook, athletic handbook and athletic ticket prices for next school year.
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