School board: Don't let likely cuts turn into a free-for-all

Thursday, January 22, 2009 | 9:46 a.m. CST; updated 10:20 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 22, 2009

COLUMBIA — At a session of the Columbia School Board on Thursday morning, members stressed that they did not want a budget shortfall and likely personnel cuts to result in a free-for-all.

Board member Karla DeSpain recalled the frenzy surrounding last year's similar announcement when departments within schools urged the board to cut others. DeSpain asked interim Superintendent Jim Ritter whether he encouraged those leading current discussions to look at their own departments first.

Board president Michelle Gadbois agreed.

“I want to avoid the finger-pointing of last year,” Gadbois said.

Ritter assured board members that at staff meetings this week principals are communicating the importance of every position but that faculties must look at the problem from a district-wide perspective, deciding first among themselves what could be cut.

Board member Rosie Tippin asked whether the district would use a weighted formula for schools with large populations of Title 1 students.  Title 1 is a federal initiative that seeks to increase the academic achievement of low-income students.

Ritter said that was a definite consideration and that disparities in achievement among schools would be taken into account when making cuts.

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