Gary school superintendent defends staff cuts
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent September 11, 2012 9:18PM
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:40PM
GARY — Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, before the board meeting Tuesday night, addressed previously announced layoffs and reassignments of dozens of secretaries and clerical aides.
The cuts in the secretarial and clerical aide staffs — 38 out of 65 positions were eliminated — were necessary and overdue, Pruitt said. Too many secretaries and aides were working at the central office, with some workers having no supervisors after different departments were consolidated or administrators were downsized, she said.
Based on seniority rights, secretaries and clerical aides who stayed on had the option of “bumping” workers with less seniority in other schools.
“The cuts were made at the central office from the elimination of administrators, many of whom were gone already,” Pruitt explained, adding a supervisor from the secretarial pool was “at the table” to help with the cuts. “All of that is what I inherited, and, in fact, I eliminated one of the secretarial positions from my office.”
Pruitt said she did not know if there will be more cuts, but she invited auditors from the State Board of Accounts to take a close look at the district’s finances, a process that should last a couple of more weeks.
Jim Balanoff, of the Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents the affected workers, said there was no bloat in the central office’s secretarial pool, and cuts should have been made elsewhere.
“We feel the problem is in the decision to shift more resources into administrators and away from the people who actually do the work,” he said. “We don’t think there was a bloated secretarial staff in the central office or elsewhere.”
Also on Tuesday, the board approved an $8.7 million tax anticipation warrant to cover bills for October and November.
Newly hired Chief Financial Officer Nikita White said the $8.7 million in tax anticipation warrants are for a temporary loan to cover operating expenses for October and November, and the money will have to be repaid by Dec. 31.
School districts and governmental taxing units commonly borrow such money to pay bills, though the requests usually come later in the year.