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Brentwood Borough School Board approves major cutbacks

| Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 12:08 a.m.

Amidst tears and pleas from teachers and community members to save their jobs, a major cutback to staffing and programming was given the go-ahead by Brentwood Borough School Board members Monday night.

The move to curtail or alter several district programs through the elimination of eight professional staff members, was approved in an 8-1 vote, with board member David Schaap dissenting. An English teaching position and paraprofessional position, both vacated by retirement, also will be eliminated. There are 100 teachers in the Brentwood Education Association.

The district's $23 million preliminary budget for 2015-16 includes a $2.5 million deficit and, faced with a dwindling fund balance, leaders have said they need to make changes.

“Now's the time that we make some tough decisions,” board President Robert Kircher said.

District leaders do not yet know how much money will be saved, as there are still variables at play, Superintendent Amy Burch said. Some classes will be cut next year, including likely nine at Brentwood High School, leaders said.

“We're deeply saddened by their decision,” Brentwood Education Association president Mary Agnes Galvin said.

Positions eliminated included a French teacher, business education teacher, library science teacher, social worker, music teacher, elementary education teacher, two English teachers and a family and consumer science teacher. Part-time French and English teaching position were added to fill the gaps.

Brentwood Borough School District is required to abide by the state School Code and meet academic standards outlined in the law, Burch said. District leaders are aligning the curriculum and course offerings so the district offers the state-required academic standards, she said.

“I have to abide by the laws and regulations,” Burch said.

With classes being cut, some student schedules for next year will be reworked, Burch said. An outline of changes was presented at the meeting.

More than 50 teachers, parents and residents attended the meeting. Many asked the board to reconsider, saying the decision will affect the students.

“The programs are going to suffer,” band director Steve Leopold said. “I don't want to be in your position, but please don't cut the arts. Please don't cut music.”

Teachers said they work together as a team and losing even one member will have an effect on the way they operate.

Elroy PTA president Jennifer Travis asked district leaders what can be done to avoid this decision.

“This is literally breaking my heart. What do you need from us?” she said, offering to pay more in taxes to avoid the decision. “I'm more than willing to pay.”

Burch pleaded with residents to contact their state legislators to ask for more funding for local districts. That's the only thing that can be done to help, she said.

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