by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY--Not everyone is happy with the district's proposed budget cuts. The bottom line is some jobs are on the line.
A closer, detailed look at their plan sheds more light on the district's goals. First, keeping the integrity of the classroom intact, but also keeping as many of their current employees out of the unemployment line.
"We are the service industry. To provide a service, you have to have people. That's what we're banking on to meet our objective," ECISD Superintendent, Hector Mendez, said.
How do you cut $13.4 million from your budget and affect as few people as possible? The Ector County Independent School District is finding out the hard way, no matter how careful you are, somebody is going to get hurt.
According to Mendez, "So far we've been able to manage that with very few positions. Yes, a few people are being affected in terms of a job for next year. Those are individuals who do not have a credential, a certification, if you will."
Out of 3,500 employees, 64 positions will be eliminated. That includes adjustments being made to programs like the Virtual High School, Channel 10 and the police department. Mendez says it's important to remember they're not disappearing, just being restructured.
"Virtual High School is not going away. If we were to cut an instructional program, we still have to provide the program. We just have to find another way to do it. Just like I mentioned about Virtual High School. It's housed out at ATC. Now, it's going to be housed at the high schools," Mendez explained.
Chuck Isner, President of TSTA Region 2C, has made it clear, he doesn't support their decisions but applauds the board's efforts. He's keeping his eye on what he says, is the bigger picture.
"My biggest concern, however, is for the kids that will be impacted by those losses. I said it to the board and I was serious, I think they're doing a tremendous job at trying to limit the impact," Isner said.
Isner says reducing staff can have serious consequences, "You increase class sizes and you are going to increase dropouts. You're going to increase truancy. In the end, those two things contribute, a tremendous amount, to juvenile crime."
And there's been talk, on the state level, of changing the teacher-student ratio in grades Kindergarten through four.
"Those are the foundation years for kids. To cut, at that point, crazy," Isner added.
The final blow will be dealt when a final budget is announced in Austin, leaving many on pins and needles until May 30th, at the earliest.
"We're hoping that within that time frame, we'll be able to take care of our people. But I can't guarantee that a few people may not be able to get a job," Mendez said.
Mendez adds the reason non-certified employees are at higher risk of losing their jobs is because they are harder to place. But it's their top priority to find a place for them all.