SOUTH COVENTRY -- The Owen J. Roberts School Board voted to hire two additional elementary school teachers, but held off approving three administrative positions even though the superintendent showed it would have no negative budgetary impact.

At a special board meeting Monday night, the board agreed to add a first grade teacher to North Coventry Elementary School and a fourth grade teacher to French Creek Elementary School.

New summer enrollments had brought both those classes above district class size policy. The board also authorized Superintendent Myra Forrest to hire two more teachers if another flurry of late enrollments pushes other classes over policy. Since June, 61 new students have registered in district schools, according to Frank Scalise, supervisor of special projects.

Both the fourth grade at East Vincent Elementary School and a kindergarten class at French Creek are nearly above the district's class size policy. The policy sets class sizes at 17-23 for kindergarten and first grade and 23-28 for fourth grade, Scalise said.

While the board concurred that those positions were essential, they hesitated to approve three administrative posts. A decision on those will be made at a meeting scheduled for Monday, August 25.

The three positions include two existing jobs that were recently vacated -- a supervisor of instruction and a supervisor of math K-12 -- as well as a newly created supervisor of language arts. Forrest said the new position is needed to facilitate a new literacy curriculum being introduced district-wide this year.

Forrest showed the board that she could fill the three positions and actually eliminate $109,000 in spending from the 2008-09 budget. That was done in response to a board request that she come up with a creative way to fund the administrative jobs and cut $100,000 from the budget.

To do this, Forrest adjusted downwards the days the employees would work, then lowered the salaries associated with the jobs to correspond with the fewer working days. Therefore, the supervisor of instruction position which had been budgeted as a 262-day job was changed to only 160 days.

What's more, the former supervisor of instruction, Kathy Soder, who was recently promoted to assistant superintendent, had held that post for a number of years. A newer employee would be expected to earn less, Forrest pointed out.

As a result, the salary for that position was originally budgeted at $123,000 and would be cut by more than half to $50,236.

The supervisor of mathematics was also a 262-day position that was changed to 225 days with a salary of $70,700 as opposed to the $73,157 that was paid in 2007-08.

The language arts supervisor would also work 262 days and earn $70,700, if Forrest's proposal is accepted.

"I was desperately trying to get that position because I think it's so needed," she said.

By changing the two existing positions to include fewer working days Forrest was able to revise the budget so that instead of spending $196,157 for those two positions, the district would be spending $191,627 for three administrators--a $9,000 savings.

What's more, Forrest proposed cutting $100,000, by taking $20,000 from five different areas of the budget, to help fund those positions. Cuts were made to special education, professional development, personnel (substitutes), and the business office (professional services and supplies). Building budgets were also cut.

In some cases, Forrest said the administrators would balance out areas where cuts were made. For example, less money would be spent on professional development, but the administrators could provide that.

"We're putting (money) toward having our own people here on a daily basis rather than have experts coming in," she said.

However, some board members worried about the budget cuts.

"We're taking money out of the budget we just approved in July," said board member Edward Kerner.

He pointed out that money was taken from the high school budget, but the principal could need it later in the year.

"He's going to come back to the board," Kerner said.

High School Principal Richard Marchini said principals agreed to give up some budgeted money to fund the administrative positions. But he questioned the need to do so, since money to fund the three positions was already in the budget.

"We'll give up something because these positions are very important," he said. "I suggest you hire the three administrators and don't take money out of the budget."

However, board member William LaCoff disagreed.

"If the educational leaders can find ways to cut $100,000 without impacting programs, that's what we want," he said.

The board will make a decision on the matter at the August 25 board meeting.

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