Non-renewal notices hit Smithfield school system

Non-renewal notices hit Smithfield school system

SMITHFIELD – Numerous non-renewal notices were sent out to Smithfield School Department employees this week as the School Committee begins to make budget cuts due to a $1.5 million reduction in state aid this year.

The committee passed several employee contract non-renewals “with regret” during Monday’s School Committee meeting, but refused to provide the list of layoffs to The Valley Breeze & Observer or offer a total number. According to Supt. Judy Paolucci, seven teachers are listed “simply due to budgetary reasons.”

An incomplete draft budget for the district’s 2020 fiscal year will include at least 1.4 fewer teaching positions and two fewer secretarial positions, with more cuts possible.

Non-renewal notices don’t mean that all employees listed will be let go, as many could be called back as the budget picture becomes clearer.

According to the proposed budget, true staffing cuts include one Spanish teacher, one school secretary, a part-time music teacher at the high school, and one secretary in the main office.

Additional cuts may include the reduction of a part-time guidance teacher, one reading teacher at the middle school, one custodian, and one social worker.

Paolucci said the district needs to notify any staff that may be affected, so the non-renewal list is longer than what is on the budget.

“The budget is not yet complete. Our draft budget relies on a 4 percent increase in the town appropriation, which is yet uncertain, as the Town Council has not yet indicated what level of support they will be advocating for,” she said.

Even with a 4 percent increase in town appropriation, Paolucci said the 2020 budget will still be less than the 2019 budget.

“If we get even 1 percent less of an increase in the town appropriation, we will need to cut an additional $316,000, which would most likely come from salaries and benefits, as we have cut many other types of expenditures already,” Paolucci said.

The proposed budget currently sits at $39,929,128, with $32,944,920 in town appropriations, and $6,205,689 in state aid. The 2019 budget of $39,936,077 has more funding than the 2020 in every way except town appropriations, which is $1,267,112 less than what is being asked this year.

Committee member Richard Iannitelli said he regrets needing to make the cuts and hopes it is only a temporary action.

“At this point, it is just a procedural thing. Not anything final. It has to be done at this juncture,” Iannitelli said.

Committee member Kellie-Ann Heenan said that the budget process is “very disheartening.” She said the committee is cutting the same roles in music that they fought to get not so long ago.

“It’s extremely frustrating and disheartening. It’s really horrible. It doesn’t feel good,” Heenan said.

Paolucci said some of the positions on the non-renewal list were temporary on a one-year basis and others were cut due to reorganization. She said one teacher is being served a non-renewal notice to retire to a part-time position.

Also, two part-time cuts were for temporary positions, a paraprofessional and a McCabe teacher, and an additional two non-renewals are for one-year positions for teachers who were on leave.

Paolucci said several names added to the list for reorganization received the correct certification and non-renewal notices will be revoked.

Poalicci noted that many districts have been adversely affected by the new Rhode Island Department of Education funding formula.

“The unpredictability has remained for many districts the biggest problem of the formula,” she said.

Smithfield joined other districts, including North Kingstown, to write a joint resolution regarding the state education funding formula.

“You’ve got it, I’ll sign it right now,” Chairwoman Rose Marie Cipriano said.