Douglas County school board says budget cuts will hurt students

MINDEN - Gov. Jim Gibbons' 4.5 percent budget cut for K-12 education is going to hurt the students of Douglas County, school board trustees said. They passed a resolution opposing the cuts Tuesday night.

"The Douglas County School District Board of Trustees opposes any reduction of resources that would have a negative impact on a school climate which encourages and fosters achievement, academics, and the active participation of both students and their families," board members stated in their resolution. "The Douglas County School District cannot refuse to educate children or ignore their educational needs."

About 50 teachers and classified employees showed up to speak their minds before the board voted on the resolution.

"I want it to be recognized that you said students are going to be impacted, and obviously what wasn't said but certainly is implied is that teachers will be impacted as well," said Marty Momsen, a teacher at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School and vice president of Douglas County Professional Education Association.

During their salary negotiations with the district in September, teacher unions declared an impasse because they felt they weren't being offered what they deserved.

Declaring an impasse deferred the matter to a third party, but teachers have since been invited back to negotiations by the school board.

However, some teachers now feel the district is using the state budget cuts as an excuse to further deny pay increases.

But superintendent Carol Lark said other districts settled with teachers before the cuts were announced.

"Those were settled, and the districts had no way of knowing that this was coming," said Lark.

"Here are your options," Business Services Director Holly Luna told the board. "Obvious places to look at first are certificated staff or directed programs."

She said that meant reading specialists, elementary counselors, psychologists, speech therapists, alternative education and summer school.

Luna said board members could also look at support staff.

"Custodians, food service, secretarial, health, library, playground aides and special education aides," said Luna. "People tend to think of salaries and benefits as fixed, but they're not. It's where do you want to put your money."

Lark said that after meeting with Gibbons last week, she thought the cuts were going to apply to one-shot programs, like full-day kindergarten, cuts that would minimally Douglas County.

But Lark said she was just informed that such programs for large counties, like Clark County, were funded by legislative trusts that can't be cut, so the state would be looking elsewhere to cut costs in education.

"We are back in limbo," said Lark. "We are caught in the middle. What I thought was resolved, is not."

That means Douglas County School District could be facing large cuts from essential funds.

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