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State of the schools speech short on details to trim $22 million from budget this year

By John Published: February 22, 2012

Akron superintendent David James laid out the positive case for passing a levy in November at his fourth "State of the Schools address today, but he delivered few details about the consequences of failure to pass a new tax.
The district must eliminate a $22 million deficit before July 1 that could lead to the layoff of up to 300 teachers.
"Now there will be other ways of reducing that deficit and it won't be all on staff, but the staff reductions will be significant," James said.

Some of those layoffs will come from the proposed closing of three elementary schools, Barrett, Essex and Rankin.
The audience for the Akron Press Club event today at the University of Akron press club gave James a standing ovation, but he was less warmly welcomed at a community meeting last night at Barrett elementary.

Parents of children with disabilities were especially emotional about losing a school that has become a hub for children with the most severe conditions. Barrett has 68 such students now, about a third of the total enrollment.
Those parents are skeptical that other schools, even the newly constructed community learning centers, will be able to match the sense of community and quality of services, equipment and facilities they have now at Barrett.

"I was at a very difficult meeting last night at Barrett trying to explain the reality of the district," James said. "We have some great staff who are working with our other schools to make sure that we can accommodate thsoe students throughout Akron Public Schools."
He said the new school buildings are all accessible to people with disabilities.

"We feel that we will be able to provide those same services for those students in a variety of schools and de-centralize some of those services. We have really no concerns about being able to replicate those programs at other locations in the city."

James probably shouldn't count on standing ovations at community meetings tonight at Rankin (5 p.m.) and Essex (6:30 p.m.)

The fiscal picture gets much gloomier if the district is unable to persuade voters to pass a new property tax.

"Without a levy passing this Novmeber, I will probably have to cut at least an equal amount and maybe more from our budget for the following year," James said. "And if this scenario bears out, we should pack up and just go home."




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