ASHTABULA - - Acting school superintendent Joseph Donatone said there will be a reduction of staff and curtailed spending by Ashtabula Area City Schools for 2007-08.

Superintendent Joseph Donatone said the school district sent the Ashtabula Area Teachers Association and the Ashtabula Association of Classified School Employees letters Thursday, notifying them of positions being considered for elimination next year. The two letters are comply with the master agreement between the school district and the unions.

Donatone said he plans to send the school board his expenditure plan in April.

Letters were not sent to any individual teachers, Donatone said.

The district's five-year budget forecast forecasts that the district will be overspending by about $1.5 million next year, Donatone said.

"We must correct this problem and cannot count on additional funding from the state," he said.

Donatone would not discuss details of the plan as it is still being worked on.

The board and Donatone will discuss ways to reduce the deficit, he said.

"We want the community to know the board is being fiscally responsible and addressing this problem," Donatone said.

The district has a deficit because state and federal funding is flat, he said. Increased costs of goods and services, utilities, diesel fuel and employees' salaries and benefits, which make up about 80 percent of the budget, continue to put pressure on the district, Donatone said.


Staff Writer

ASHTABULA - - Educators in the Ashtabula Area City School District are concerned the issue of new elementary schools is back on table for discussion after the district decided to build five grade-level campus style schools on one site.

The feeling comes from a decision to pull a request for wetland delineation testing on 161 acres located south of Wade Avenue and just west of Ohio Avenue from the Ashtabula Board of Education's Feb. 21, meeting agenda.

Board President Roland Valentic had said the item was being "put on the back burner." However, at the board's recent meeting only two board members, Michael Franklin and Janine Trebuchon-Wertz, were in favor of moving forward with testing.

Other board members David Sheldon, Steve Candela and Valentic, were against the site. Valentic and Candela wouldn't publicly say why they opposed the site, while Sheldon has said the property is located in a high crime area.

"They need to be forthcoming with what is driving their decisions," said Kim Aponte, a fifth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School. "We're trying to encourage the board to do what's best for learning."

In May of 2005 at several public forums, Aponte and Maureen Novak, a kindergarten teacher at Chestnut Elementary School, discussed the findings of an Ashtabula Area Teacher Association committee study addressing issues in the district and the best options for new schools.

"The 'pie in the sky' option as we called it was grade-level campus style elementary schools," Aponte said. "It would solve many of the problems and address the needs."

The reasons sited then and now for the grade-level campus-style configuration was the number of students who move from school to school within the district. Data collected from August to December showed the district's elementary schools had 951 students enrolled.

A total of 621 students withdrew from the district during that time, with 316 of those students transferring from one building to another within the district.

Educators still feel a campus style setting would enhance students learning. Students wouldn't be moving from school to school within the district during the school year, disrupting their education or the education of other students, Aponte said.

Teachers also would be able to share data among grade levels more efficiently to better educate the entire student body.

Class size and overcrowding was another reason sited.

Novak said all the hard work of the committee and it's ideas have been thrown out the window,

"Our job as educators is not to locate a site," Novak said. "It was to look at what could be done better educationally in the district. And that is how we approached the study."

Jeff Baylor, a fifth-grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School said he wished the board felt the same as the educators and put the needs of the students first.

"I feel it is the board's duty to the city to look at the Wade Avenue property and if not they are severing any possible ties with our community ," he said.

Educators are afraid the board will reconsider a neighborhood schools configuration.

"We all recognize the neighborhoods aren't what they use to be," Baylor said. "I use to go to this (Thomas Jefferson) school. The neighborhood isn't what it use to be. Students are not walking to school like they use to. They are dropped off in cars."

- - LISA DAVIS - Staff Writer

Star Beacon Print Edition: 3/2/2007

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