July 26, 2008

Chelmsford Axes 26 School Jobs

By Rita Savard, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jul. 26--CHELMSFORD -- First came the closing of Westlands Elementary School. Now 26 jobs have been axed inside Chelmsford schools as officials move forward with budget cuts.

"We've been cutting and it's deep," said Superintendent of Schools Donald Yeoman. "It's tragic when people lose their jobs. From cafeteria workers to teachers, this means every student is getting less."

With a $2.2 million deficit, school officials said layoffs were unavoidable. Positions terminated include approximately five teachers, seven teachers' aides, three custodians, five cafeteria food managers and an information technology specialist.

After the closure of Westlands Elementary School in June, Yeoman also anticipates that some classes in the town's four remaining elementary schools and two middle schools will swell in size with 27 to 29 students per room. The district's policy is 22 students per class in kindergarten and first grade, and 25 per class in grades 2-12.

In addition to layoffs, Yeoman said 7.6 positions were eliminated through attrition, and the jobs of eight staff members who resigned in June will most likely go unfilled.

The result, said Yeoman, will be a domino effect through the entire Chelmsford school system, where kids get hit the hardest.

"This year our MCAS scores were the highest they've ever been," Yeoman said. "With less resources, I worry about what this will mean for the future."

The cuts come in wake of a failed Proposition 21/2 tax

override in April, where town officials were seeking $2.8 million to sustain town services. Out of that amount, $2.1 million was slated for the school district.

Yeoman said he understands the reluctance of voters in tight fiscal times to open their own wallets. But following his first year as superintendent in a new state, Yeoman said he's having trouble grasping Massachusetts' formula for school funding.

"For the first time in my career, I have to be concerned about not having enough money to run a school district," Yeoman said. "This makes Massachusetts unique compared to other states in the country. It hurts to think I have to dismantle what other people spent their career building."


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