Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 3, 2014

Neoga to cut 2 teachers

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — While the number was nowhere near last year's, Neoga school board made more staff cuts Thursday as financial problems for the district persist.

The board honorably dismissed two certified teaching staff, voting unanimously to dismiss first grade teacher Toni Mellendorf and kindergarten teacher Jennie Metcalf. The reduction will reduce kindergarten and first grade to two sections.

Two other staff members had their class schedule and salary cut by a third, which included Randi Sucic, the high school Spanish teacher, and Sheri Schafer, high school family and consumer Science teacher.

The board cut 12 teachers last year.

Neoga Superintendent Chuck Castle said these cuts should be the last of their kind for now, but without state aid funding returning to its full level, the district is looking at cost-saving measures.

“This is hopefully the teaching reduction that will get us to the end of next year,” said Castle.

Currently, state aid funding is prorated at 89 percent, with that percentage expected to go down another 2 percent next year.

“This might continue without a change in the state aid,” said Castle.

Castle said following this round of reductions, teacher morale within the district “is not good.”

Several teachers attended the meeting, but deferred questions about the cuts to their association president.

“The Neoga Teachers' Association is saddened that once again we have lost excellent staff members to a reduction in force,” said Nick Schulze, Neoga Teachers' Association president. “After two years of reduction in staff from all levels, we hope that in the future the district will be able to develop other solutions to solve budgetary issues.”

The recent staff reductions are estimated to save the district $108,949. The district has said additional cuts might be necessary to deal with the deficit, which at its current rate will grow to $455,000 by the 2015-2016 school year. Cuts that have been considered include reducing band, art and music teachers to half-time in addition to eliminating the accelerated reader program.

Castle did indicate the district would consider consolidation, after it had been discussed at previous school board meetings, but said no districts have approached them at this time.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, at tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com or on Twitter @Ednthuffman.