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Christina School Board OKs budget cuts, begins search for acting superintendent

Delaware Public Media

The Christina School District will begin its new school year dealing with the fall-out from budget cuts and a change in leadership.  

Christina School Board members voted Tuesday night to accept a preliminary budget plan that included needed cuts to finish filling a $9.5 million dollar budget hole left when district voters rejected two tax referendums earlier this year.

Assistant superintendent and chief financial officer Bob Silber presented the plan to the board.  He says an effort was made to minimize the impact on students.

“We’ll be using a lot of our restricted local funds to support students as opposed to reinvesting in technology.  We’re going to have to take a breath on our technology refresh process.  Not that we won’t do any, but we won’t do as much as we have historically," said Silber. "It will probably drop by about a million dollars so we can push a million dollars more toward students directly.”

Despite those efforts, the cuts include half a million dollars to elementary school guidance counseling and school based intervention programs and trimming of $470,000 thousand dollars for books and publications.

The district will also drop five Delaware State Police troopers contracted as school resource officers – one at each district high school, as well as  one shared by Wilmington schools and another shared by suburban schools.

There’s also nearly $630,000 in cuts to extra pay for extra responsibility positions – such as sports coaches, band directors, and moderators of extracurricular activities.  Individuals schools will decide how those cuts are made.

And Silber says it’s just the start of some hard conversations.

“It’s very hard to stop doing something because inevitably somebody liked it.  And that’s where the board has tough decisions to make," said Silber. "When we talk to them and say, ‘Here’s a program.  It costs us “x” number of dollars and it supports only “x” number of students.  What’s your preference?’ Those are the kind of dialogues that will have to go on this year.”

Meanwhile, the district is not likely to fill its unexpected leadership vacuum before the start of the new school year.

The district finds itself without a superintendent after Dr. Freeman Williams took an immediate leave of absence starting last week.

At Tuesday night's meeting, board president Harrie Ellen Minnehan indicated the district would need someone to fill the post for at least 11 weeks, and it is uncertain if Williams will return.

Turning to deputy superintendent Dr. Fara Zimmerman is not an option.  She’s retiring this month.

After squabbling over what the qualifications an acting superintendent should have,  the board voted to have district officials develop a job posting it will approve at a special meeting on Aug. 20th.  It will also establish a timeline for reviewing applicants at that meeting.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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