Another school board meeting, and another round of layoffs. This time for the Harlem School District.
The staff reduction comes as the district works to change its special education program.
Twenty-seven positions are being cut next year to save money.
"We needed to release our first through third year teachers to make room for our tenured teachers," says Superintendent Dr. Julie Morris. "Then we'll repost those positions for some of them to come back." That will depend largely on what happens with the state budget.
Seventy-two paraprofessionals are getting non-renewal notices. More than half of them work with special needs children.
"I would think if you're going to cut anything with the budget, this would be the very last thing," says Harlem High School Junior, Thor Hansen. He's worried about what it will mean for his brother Bjorn, who's in the district's special education program. "If they have to lose paraprofessionals, it's going to be even worse for them at school," he says.
But district leaders say there will still be more than 60 paraprofessionals on staff.
The special education program change has actually been in the works since last year. To offset the loss of paraprofessionals, the district is hiring 18 certified special education consultants. They will train regular teachers on how to work with children with special needs.
"They'll teach the teachers, which we believe is building capacity in the schools," says Director of Special Education, Caroline Pate-Hefty.
The change will save the district money. But Pate-Hefty says regardless of finances, students will come first. "If they're needs show us that the model isn't working, we will come back to the table and decide what we need to do to help them," she says. "But statistics show, these consultants can make way for more targeted instruction and provide teachers with more support."
The district has also already decided to get rid of "Rising Stars - the pre-kindergarten program for at-risk kids. And school meal prices will be increasing next year to bring in some money.