Mad River schools cuts teaching, therapist jobs despite urging from union, parents

Five school therapists and an art teaching position are among the jobs being proposed as part of a reduction in force in Mad River Local Schools, records show. FILE

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Five school therapists and an art teaching position are among the jobs being proposed as part of a reduction in force in Mad River Local Schools, records show. FILE

RIVERSIDE — Six jobs in Mad River Local Schools have been cut by the board of education as part of a reduction in force.

Five school therapists and an art teaching position were the jobs in the RIF that was passed by a 4-1 vote in a Monday night meeting that attracted about 50 people, nearly half of whom wore Mad River Education Association shirts.

The district will contract for therapist services in what officials said is a cost-savings agreement also approved Monday night.

Superintendent Chad Wyen has cited deficit spending and dropping enrollment as the reasons for the cuts. Despite the board’s vote, revenue shortfalls will continue and be supplemented by the district’s reserves, officials said.

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The RIF vote came after union leadership and parents asked the board to reconsider the cuts. The board has choices regarding funding and financial issues, MREA President Amy Holbrook told it before the vote.

“Is this the time that we outsource mental health of our students?” she asked. “These are important questions that you have the choice to ask …You also have the choice to change course tonight and to decide that now is not the time and to vote no.”

The education association represents about 220 teachers, counselors, media specialists, nurses and therapists, she has said.

One parent of an elementary school student agreed, saying “trying to outsource this and take away from our kids … now not the time.”

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President Christina Pickle said her reasons for supporting the cuts, which have been discussed for several weeks, was “really financial … and we owe our constituents to budget” responsibly.

Board member A.J. Ricker voted against the move, calling his decision “a gruelingly difficult one to make.”

Moving forward, “we must become better financial stewards for this district,” he said. “Our solutions to budget balancing should never reach a point in which we have to even consider staff reductions as an option.”

The RIF moves take effect Aug. 1.

The therapist jobs include one each at Stebbins High School, Mad River Middle School, and Beverly Gardens, Brantwood and Stevenson elementaries. The art teaching position is at the middle school, according to documents.

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Without dropping the therapist jobs, more teaching positions would have been lost, Wyen has said.

Therapist services will be contracted out to Samaritan Behavioral Health. Mad River already has agreement with Samaritan for one building, Wyen has said.

Treasurer Jerry Ellender said the district is now spending about $800,000 in payroll and benefits for therapists. The new contract with Samaritan, he said, gives it six therapists with supervision from that organization for $300,000 annually.

“That’s really what it boils down to – that savings that can be achieved and still provide the service,” Ellender said.

Despite the cuts and the new Samaritan contract, the district’s deficit remains at about $600,000 for next fiscal year, he said. The district’s reserves at the end of this fiscal year are expected to be about $14.5 million, Wyen said.

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