Apr 14, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, PublisherThis first round of cuts has been tough, but a second round would be agonizing
Bad news never lands softly.
This week, Fremont County School District 25 in Riverton arrived at its list of jobs that are being eliminated.
It was expected, but its arrival after months of worried speculation still came with a thud. Twenty full-time positions gone. About the same number of extra-duty jobs - coaches, assistants and sponsors - gone as well.
District 25, with all other school districts in Wyoming, must manage a striking loss of state funding imposed from above by the Wyoming Legislature. A lot of public school funding in our state is tied to mineral production and energy development, and that industry isn't doing well in Wyoming right now.
The money isn't coming in. State law would have to be changed in order for revenue sources to change - and there aren't any good financial alternatives anyway. We're stuck here until revenue improves.
A recalibration of education procedures, mechanisms and allocation is planned this year, but it can't create revenue from a three-ring briefing binder.
The American revolutionary figure Thomas Paine wrote "These are the times that try men's souls." That was 241 years ago, but he might have had local school administrators in mind. For now, the state is permitting local districts to decide what and where to cut. It's the local boards and superintendents who are making these excruciating decisions, which affect almost everyone but satisfy almost no one.
When beginning a career in public school administration, no managers have this in mind. Their calling their, training, their judgment never is developed in eager anticipation of the day they have cut 20 jobs.
Sometimes, however, times like these demand that such skills be put to unpleasant uses. We are there now.
Practically speaking, the District 25 situation could have been worse. That's no comfort to the half-dozen or so who are losing their jobs outright, but it's still true. Through retirements, a couple of unexpected resignations, normal job turnover and some creative re-thinking of positions and job descriptions, the actual number of terminations is much smaller than it might have been.
The bigger problem is the future. Superintendent Terry Snyder said there is "great nervousness" in projecting a second round of cutbacks should it be necessary (and a lot of money watchers say it will be). Personnel gymnastics of the sort pulled off in District 25 this week are difficult to do, but possible - once.
Should another order come down from Cheyenne to bring out the axe again, it will be agonizing. Anyone, anywhere, who can do anything to prevent that must go to work immediately.
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