Five Culver Elementary teachers cut last week

Five Culver Elementary School teachers received their pink slips last Thursday afternoon, following a unanimous school board vote four days earlier to cut that number of teachers from the school's staff.

Among teachers confirming they received notices were 2nd grade teacher Tina Bailey, 3rd grade teacher Rachel Rife, and 4th grade teacher Alicia Toll. An appeals process exists for the teachers, which makes it likely the school board will make no formal decision on cuts until after the school year has ended.

Culver Community Schools superintendent Brad Schuldt had, in the months prior to the decision, actually predicted teacher cuts would be closer to 7 to 10, but the retirement of several long-term faculty and staff contributed to the ability to retain the teachers who stayed on.

At the April 29 school board meeting, three new teachers were hired at a cost of $179,050 for the upcoming year. During that meeting, Schuldt told the board that, after this spring’s retirements were factored in, $511,908 in reductions was still needed, which would be fulfilled by cutting five teachers.

Schuldt had also previously prepared teachers -- and the community -- for the likelihood that cuts would take place at the elementary, rather than the middle or high school, level since several CES class sizes were below state averages.

The cuts came in the wake of continuing efforts to shore up operational costs in the school system over the past few years, a response to a combination of marked decreases in school enrollment (around 11 percent in the past three years), as well as shifts in funding methodologies at the state level, which will cost the school $1.8 million in tuition support. The closure of Monterey Elementary School at the end of the 2011 school year was part of an earlier wave of budget cutting efforts.

Schuldt also told the board work would commence on shoring up the elementary building’s HVAC and window caulking, which should save some $200,000 in energy use. Performance Services of Indianapolis, which handled a similar project at the high school, will do the work.

The company, said Schuldt, had guaranteed a $44,000 savings at the high school, but already that amount has been surpassed to $90,000 from prior to the project. Schuldt noted the cost of the elementary project comes from a different fund than faculty salaries are derived from.

Rhonda Reinhold contributed to this article.