Superintendent: ‘Major reductions' ahead

By: 
Nov. 13, 2012

Following voters’ rejection of the School Board’s one mill referendum, Superintendent Margaret Smith projected cuts in ‘all district departments.’

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

In its first meeting since Election Day, when the Volusia County School Board’s one mill property tax increase was rejected by voters, the board opened its Tuesday, Nov. 13 meeting with budget talks. And they weren’t pretty.

“Balancing the budget for the 2013-2014 school year will require implementing (staff and program) cuts,” Superintendent Margaret Smith said. “All district departments will have major reductions, and there will have to be reductions on the school-level, too.”

Facing a $25 million deficit heading into next year, Smith called shortfall projections conservative, since they don’t take into account pension, health care and utility increases.

But that doesn’t mean entire departments will be eliminated, she added, just scaled back.

“It will not be possible to maintain the same staffing and student activities within this budget,” she said.

So far, Smith has already implemented a hiring freeze, “with an already pared down staff;” she’s scheduled meetings with every department head to talk cutbacks and also started researching alternative reduction options. She plans to begin seeking outside input, as well — School Board member Diane Smith suggested posting an online suggestion box for this purpose.

“The School Board will, as always, study, discuss and make decisions regarding necessary reductions,” Margaret Smith said. “We certainly do have challenges ... but we’ll do everything we can to reduce the impact on our students.”

Public workshops to determine where and how severe cuts will be will begin late January.

Seabreeze wins art award

One of only five schools in the state, Seabreeze High School has been named a 2011-2014 Visual Art Demonstration School, by the Florida Department of Education.

“Throughout our hallways, we celebrate all of our amazing artists,” Seabreeze Assistant Principal Kathy Gibbons said. “It is through the efforts of amazing teachers that these kinds of things come to fruition. We have students ... who have gone on to become professional artists and art teachers, and we think that’s amazing.”

Teacher John Richmond, who completed the award application with teacher Lisa Botkin, called the application process “grueling,” noting that it took three weeks to complete and compile pieces for submittal.

“The arts are alive and well at Seabreeze High School,” Gibbons added. “And they have a profound effect on the success of our students — profound.”