Following the failure of last school year’s S&W proposition, the Webster Groves School District has made changes to cope with the loss of expected taxpayer dollars.
From laying off staff members to cutting construction plans, the district is looking for spare change wherever it can find it. Its 2015-16 budget plan projects a savings of $1.5 million.
It’s nothing new for Webster to have cutbacks; last year the district withheld 10 percent of department budgets, eliminated a part time director’s position and increased cafeteria prices, as well as other money-saving tactics.
This year departments face another budget cutback of 5 percent while Central Office faces 10 percent.
“The idea is to keep it as far away from the students, so that you don’t feel the effects. That’s always been the goal,” communications director Cathy Vespereny said. “I think that, for instance in the high school, there’s some new faces that you aren’t seeing from these retired teachers that aren’t coming back.”
Retired positions without a replacement include a fine arts coordinator, communication arts and math teachers, a technology software coordinator and a preschool co-director.
Because of cuts, the high school’s total staff list is four members shorter. As a result, students may notice an increase in class sizes.
Principal Jon Clark estimated student to staff ratio is up by one since last year—now 22.5:1.
“My goal is always to keep it around 22 [students],” Dr. Clark said about the ratio. “I spent a lot of time with [John] E. Thomas and counselor [Karen] Verstraete keeping that balance.”
Until another levy is passed, the district will continue making budget savings.
About whether another levy would come up, Vespereny said, “No one has talked about when we go to the voters, and that’s when we’ll have more money and be able to not have to do some of these things. We could go anytime we want, but there has been zero talk about April, and you would have to know by now because there’s certain deadlines you have to meet, as far as getting your ballot wording to the county.”
Students should not only look for what has changed in the district but what hasn’t changed.
Steger still shares a building with Computer School, Moss Field remains the football field it was last year, and Clark School’s building space holds steady.
According to Vespereny, this year’s sixth grade class is unusually large. Had Prop. W passed, sixth grade would have moved to Hixson, helping reduce its class size problem.
Vespereny said, “I think that it was too much, and I think it wasn’t that the people didn’t like what we’re doing or think we’re doing a bad job, I think they just were not ready to shell out that amount of money.”