Last chance to comment on Cape schools cuts

Friday, January 2, 2004

Cape Girardeau School District patrons will have an opportunity to air concerns about impending budget cuts at a special school board meeting Monday night.

More than 200 people crowded the board meeting room in December, when superintendent Mark Bowles presented his suggestions for making $1.3 million in cuts. At that time, board members decided a second meeting was necessary to allow more public comment on the issues at hand, including the dismissal of employees such as a band teacher and a high school counselor.

"We wanted to make sure concerned community members have a chance to express their thoughts to the board," said Bowles. "It did not seem fair to give the community just two board meetings to do that."

Board president Sharon Mueller said the board will also discuss the most controversial recommendations and clear up questions.

"It's hard when people just come up and say, 'Don't cut this, it's a vital part of school.' What we really hope to get at this meeting is ideas for alternative cuts," Mueller said. "Whether we agree or disagree with the recommendations, we still have to cut something."

More than 100 school employees and community members met as a task force for two weeks in November to generate and prioritize ideas for the budget cuts.

From the task force's ideas, Bowles selected 54 suggestions amounting to $1.3 million and presented them to the school board. Among the finalized recommendations are charging a $40 fee to students participating in extracurricular activities such as athletics and eliminating seven teaching positions.

"A lot of these issues are emotionally charged, and I hope people come to this meeting with organized thoughts and ideas," Mueller said.

The school board is scheduled to make a final decision about the cuts at a Jan. 26 meeting.

"We're pretty focused on this, and we pretty much have to make the cuts in January because we're talking about people's contracts, and we want to give as much notice as possible," Mueller said.

335-6611, extension 128

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