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New schools budget would cut 35 teaching jobs

MEDFORD — The fate of the Medford School District's elementary music and middle school athletics programs is still up in the air following Tuesday night's bleak budget meeting.

The new budget proposal unveiled Tuesday night calls for eliminating 35 teaching positions to help ease a $9 million budget shortfall.

Twenty-one of the positions would be cut by layoffs, with the additional 13 whittled away through attrition.

Superintendent Phil Long presented the budget at Washington Elementary School. The process has been tough for a school district backed into a corner by a sharp decrease in state funding as the recession continues its grip on the country.

"It's painful," Long said. "We've been adding positions in recent years as enrollment has been going down, so the cuts might affect the newest teachers, which is sad because we hate to lose those good teachers."

The district has not specified which teachers would be handed pink slips in the coming months. School officials have considered eliminating elementary music and middle school athletic programs to save money.

In addition, the district still is deciding whether to revert to a four-day school week, Long said.

Cutting the 35 teaching positions would save the district more than $2 million over the next school year. The new budget also calls for severe cuts in school supplies and allowing support staff positions to disappear via attrition.

Losing the teachers would increase class sizes by an average of one student, Long said.

Athletic programs across the district stand to lose nearly half their coaches. Middle school coaching positions would be cut by 55 percent and high school coaching jobs would be chopped by 20 percent.

Despite the steep reductions called for in the proposed budget, the district is still $1.9 million short of making up the shortfall.

"We will continue working with the staff to get where we need to be," Long said. "The way you get there is to adjust compensation or you eliminate more positions."

The budget also calls for reducing pay for various administrators, including Long, and eliminate two elementary school vice principal positions.

Long hopes State Economist Tom Potiowsky will deliver some good news Friday when he discusses the current economic and revenue forecast.

"We will be cautiously optimistic, but it's better to not get our hopes too far up," Long said.

The district will publish the budget proposal on its Web site. Visit www.medford.k12.or.us to see the complete budget.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.