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Grant Wood cuts to affect schools

BY AUDREY SMITH | FEBRUARY 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Local educators said students would receive less individual attention following Grant Wood Area Education Agency’s recent layoffs.

State budget cuts, low enrollment, and several other factors forced Grant Wood officials to notify 50 employees their positions will be terminated at the end of June, said George Held, communications supervisor for Grant Wood.

The 50 layoffs are largely a result of former Gov. Chet Culver’s 10 percent cuts to state programs last year. Officials said they aren’t sure how the Legislature’s proposed budget would further affect them once it is finalized.

Grant Wood oversees special programs — such as special-education support, instructional media, and school technology — in 32 Area Ten public-school districts, including the Iowa City School District.

“All departments of the agency were touched by this decision,” Held said.

The greatest loss will be to the agency’s contracted staff, he said.

The Iowa City School District employs seven staff members through Grant Wood, including those who work part-time. Jim Pedersen, the district’s executive director of human relations, said two of the district’s Grant Wood employees specializing in mathematics curricula were among those terminated.

“Any time we have a reduction in personnel, we can’t provide the same service next year,” he said.

And this service includes individual attention to students, which will decrease as the remaining Grant Wood employees acquire larger caseloads.

“Some work may have to be done with groups rather than individual [students],” said Deb Wretman, the principal of Southeast Junior High, 2501 Bradford Drive.

Southeast works with Grant Wood in order to provide speech, physical, and occupational therapies as well as social work for its students.

Though the 50 positions will be cut in June, Held said, the dismissals may not be permanent.

“We do anticipate that we may be able to call back some of the people who received notices,” he said. “That picture will become clearer as we get closer to June 30, which is the end of our fiscal year.”

Grant Wood administrators cited several other reasons behind the layoffs in addition to Culver’s cuts last year. Area Ten schools have seen a decline in enrollment, which affects funding. The layoffs also stem from mandated increases in employee retirement and health plans, as well as dwindling federal funding through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Grant Wood officials said the imminent loss of staff could affect individual schools, because the layoffs include counselors, special-education consultants, school psychologists, and school social workers hired through the agency.

Though local officials said they do not yet know how the recently proposed cuts will affect them, any cuts are detrimental to students’ learning.

“Any of us learn better or make faster progress with one-to-one [attention],” Wretman said. “If there’s less time [spent with individual students], there’ll be potentially less progress made.”


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