Parma City School District asks for more time on budget cut plan

PARMA, Ohio – The Parma City School District asked the Ohio Department of Education for more time to come up with major cuts, which could include more than 200 full-time jobs, after a heated school board meeting in which the board president suddenly resigned.

A capacity crowd of more than 1,000 students and parents packed Parma Senior High School’s auditorium for Tuesday’s board meeting, and expressed concerns over the district’s plan to deal with a projected $15 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

Board President Kathleen Petro suddenly quit and left the stage amid cheers from the crowd after someone shouted out, calling on her to resign.

The state placed the Parma Schools in fiscal caution in August and required the district to come up with a fiscal recovery plan by Oct. 17. The plan called for cuts to staff, programs and the consolidation of Normandy and Valley Forge high schools into one high school at Parma Senior High. It was largely met with outrage during Tuesday’s public hearing, prompting the district to ask for more time to revise the plan.

“We heard a lot of public comments and we're working to address those comments. I think the proposal that was laid out is a living document, is a changing document,” district supervisor of public relations Dan Rajkovich said.

He said a review of the proposal is ongoing, with total district-wide staff cuts possibly reaching 240, of which 36.5 have already been implemented.

The board must also fill the vacant position. Rajkovich said it will follow Ohio School Board Association policies, which require the position to be filled within 10 to 30 days.

“It's obviously very painful for our community. This is just another challenge we have going forward and it's a challenge we're going to accept,” Rajkovich said.

Petro did not respond to a request for an interview, but sent FOX 8 News a letter addressed to Parma City School District taxpayers defending the plan as allowing the district to stay solvent, “without severely destroying the students’ education and not asking the taxpayers for huge new money.”

In the letter, she said she was “heartbroken for this district” and said tax dollars had been spent on raises the board “was told we could afford,” technology “presented as the only option,” highly-paid administrators and unsustainable educational programs.

“I could no longer watch the political and personal agendas destroy our district and our community. I could no longer watch the waste of hard-earned tax dollars… I could no longer remain on the board when I needed to have extra police patrolling my home…”

The district said it staved off a 2016 deficit of about $2 million by obtaining a $3.2 million property tax cash advance from Cuyahoga County in June. It is now waiting on a response from the state on whether it will extend the deadline to submit a recovery plan.

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