SARANAC LAKE - Bloomingdale Elementary School Principal Theresa Lindsay will lose her job if the $28 million budget adopted Tuesday by the Saranac Lake school board is approved by district voters May 21.
School officials have proposed cutting an administrative position in order to help close a more than $450,000 budget gap for the 2013-14 school year and meet the state's property tax cap.
Lindsay, who was hired in 2010, has the least seniority among the district's half dozen administrators, so she would be the one who would lose her job, Superintendent Gerald Goldman told the Enterprise after Tuesday's meeting.
Bloomingdale Elementary School Principal Theresa Lindsay holds a microphone for a Cub Scout to speak at the school’s annual Veterans Day event in November.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
Speaking from her office at the school this morning, Lindsay said she told her teachers and staff about the situation in a meeting on Monday.
"I've just accepted that it's part of my journey," she told the Enterprise. "It's been hard in the sense that these 238 kids here have really become my kids, and this building here, we're a team. It's going to be hard to leave that. I'm still the administrator here for the next two months, and I will continue to do whatever I can to help the kids of this building and this community."
Cutting an administrator is just one among a list of proposed budget cuts Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower outlined to the board and the public Tuesday.
The other moves include eliminating three teaching assistant positions, one job in the purchasing department, one information technology employee and one English language arts teacher. Bower said the district wouldn't fill any vacancies created by retirements. The budget would also eliminate middle and high school summer school, reduce software licensing by $10,000 and discontinue district-operated universal pre-kindergarten, handing that over completely to local preschool and day care providers.
There was no discussion of any of the proposed cuts before the board voted 6-0 to adopt the budget. Board member Esther Arlan was absent.
Lindsay, who was sitting in the audience, wasn't mentioned by name during the meeting as the person who would lose her job through the administrative cut. But word that her job was on the line had apparently been circulating around the district since last week. At the board's April 10 meeting, Chad McCarthy, the district's director of special programs, talked about Lindsay during the meeting's public comment period, praising her for her dedication and commitment to Bloomingdale Elementary, though he didn't say what had prompted him to speak.
Both Goldman and school Board President Debra Lennon also spoke highly of Lindsay after Tuesday's meeting.
"She's a very talented administrator," Goldman said. "I think she's going to wind up someplace being a real leader in another school district."
"We have always valued the work that Theresa does and has done," Lennon said. "She is a valuable member of our district. It's just a painful cut."
Why cut an administrative position? Goldman said it was in part a "political calculation," referencing calls in the past in Enterprise editorials and from the Saranac Lake Teachers Association to trim the district's administration.
"My position was, there are many fewer administrators than teachers, and therefore cutting even one was a disproportionate percentage of administrative cuts," Goldman said. "It's going to have an impact, there's no question. But I think people felt like there was no alternative politically but to do this."
"It was something we've had to do," Lennon said. "We've cut from most other areas. The only place we hadn't gotten smaller was at the top."
Lindsay said she knew her position was on the chopping block.
"The district has been talking about an administrative cut since last year, and they've kept me in the loop," she said. "I know that Dan and Jerry worked very diligently with the budget to do everything they could to save the position, but when push came to shove, it's the route they decided to take."
Bloomingdale Elementary will have an administrator, but just whom that will be is still up in the air, Goldman said.
"There are a lot of possibilities as to how we might reorganize the administrators," he said. "We'll have to reassign our administrators in such a fashion so that we can do all the things we're doing and still cover Bloomingdale with a principal, full time."
Apart from Lindsay, the district's other administrators are McCarthy, high school Principal Bruce Van Weelden, high school Assistant Principal Paul Leahy, Petrova Elementary Principal Josh Dann and middle school Principal Patricia Kenyon.
Lindsay said whatever administrator ends up in this building "will do an amazing job," although she is concerned about the workload that will fall to a smaller group of administrators. In particular, she said the state's new teacher evaluation system has administrators "running crazy," spending eight hours per teacher on observations.
"I don't know how they're going to effectively distribute that workload with the reduction of an administrator," Lindsay said.
Lindsay, who lives in Lake Placid, said she's already applied for other positions. She's looking all over but hopes to stay in the North Country, where she moved 15 years ago.
The 2013-14 budget contains $28,080,442 in spending, an increase of 2.91 percent over the current budget. The tax levy would increase 3.67 percent, just under the district's allowable tax levy limit of 3.79 percent.
The proposed cuts are needed to make up a $455,000 shortfall in revenue, Bower said. The deficit would have been even greater, he explained, if the district hadn't received $514,000 more state aid than what was proposed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget.
"Despite the fact that we received more aid, and we've worked as hard as I think we possibly can to preserve possibly everything, when you're closing a gap that large, it's just not entirely possible" to do so without making some difficult cuts, Bower said.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. May 14 in the Petrova school library.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.