Phoenix-Talent schools to cut 45 from work force

The Phoenix-Talent School District will reduce its work force by 45 employees next school year as it prepares for plummeting state revenues.

Thirty-one staff members, two-thirds of whom are teachers, received pink slips Friday and Monday, said Ben Bergreen, district superintendent. The layoffs are effective at the end of the school year June 11. The district currently has 280 employees.

"This is the first time I've had to do layoffs," said Bergreen, who came to Phoenix-Talent in 2001. "In 2002-03, we eliminated 2.5 positions. This is a lot more catastrophic in my mind."

The remainder of the reductions came as a result of retirements, attrition, leaves of absence and reducing work hours for some teachers.

The job cuts, which were made according to programs, will save nearly $2.25 million, Bergreen said. As a result, average class sizes at the middle school and high school level will increase from the upper 20s to in the 30s, the elementary music program will disappear and other programs will be scaled back.

"With the except of elementary music, we preserved programs," Bergreen said. "We still have three-fourths-day kindergarten, P.E. and electives."

The district of about 3,000 students also plans to pare down an estimated $250,000 in expenses next year by not buying some textbooks and supplies and scaling back on professional development and travel.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has warned of a $4 billion to $5 billion shortfall in state revenues and requested all state departments to prepare budgets that have been cut by 30 percent.

"I think more information will be revealed as we go along," said School Board Vice Chairman Rick Nagel. "This is what it looks like today. The (financial) numbers we get from the state are constantly changing."

The district's budget committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. May 5 at the library in Phoenix High School, 745 N. Rose St., to discuss the cuts and other budgetary issues.

The district also will hold three parent meetings to discuss the cuts at 6 :30 p.m. May 11 at Talent Elementary School, May 12 at Phoenix Elementary School and May 19 at Orchard Hill Elementary School.

The district has offered an early retirement stipend of $12,000 for longtime school employees who agree to retire this year. So far, five employees have volunteered, and others continue to consider the offer, Bergreen said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or

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