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Ladue School Administrator: 'Sort Of Like We're On A Sinking Ship'

District vote on April 3 will decide the direction Ladue will take going foward.

Nothing is perfect, especially in the world of education today. But these are just a few of the things the Ladue School District is currently up against.

For instance, Reed School serves lunch to its students as early as 10:30 in the morning and as late as 2 p.m. Ladue High has classes with excess of 30 students in a room and the whole district had to forgo its summer camping program.

None of this is either tolerable, or tied to the rich tradition of a district that dates back to the 1950s when the high school opened its doors to offer secondary public education starting in 1954.

Recently, the Ladue-Frontenac Patch ran a feature on claims by the Vote No committee on Prop 1.

Elementary schools, the likes of Conway, Little Ladue (Reed today), Spoede, and others go back even further than that.

With an enrollment that has increased 23 percent over 10 years and a nine percent drop in revenues, due to a slow paced economy and falling home values, the district has been put on a financial collision course. Draconian cuts will have to be made should the .49 cent tax levy put before the votes April 3 fail.

“It’s sort of like we’re on a sinking ship and the bucket we are using to bail water has a hole in it,” said Dr. Jason Buckner, chief financial officer addressing a room full of concerned residents, parents, administrators and teachers at Ladue High School Monday night. This is part of a series of presentations and round table discussions to present all sides of the issues to the voters prior to election day.

Bucker said maintaining the district finances is no different than running a home budget. “There are simply things that are out of our control. We have no say over utility rates. If we have severe winter weather (the district incurred several recent years), costs go up.” Besides, “Our money is tied up in a state mandated pension fund for our employees and we have to continue to purchase services for our schools,” he said.

Like it or not, all school districts are labor intensive. More than 80 percent of Ladue’s money is spent on salaries and benefits for its teachers and administers.

On the flip side, if the tax levy passes, then a number of things will kick into place

  • Class room sizes, grades 3-12 will remain the same. Plans are in place to keep class room sizes smaller in grades K-3.
  • The fifth grade center at the West Campus will open for school year 2013-14.
  • The district will be able to avoid expenditure reductions
  • Teachers would receive modest increases

Should the bond issue not pass:

  • $1-2 million would be cut from the budget every year going forward. The district has already cut $7 million from the budget the past four years.
  • Size of class rooms would be mandated by the number of teachers available in each district building

This report includes extensive interviews with the district’s superintendent, chief financial office, the high school principal, a retired veteran teacher and present day school member and active district parent.

James Baer March 21, 2012 at 02:19 AM
cck: Sorry, you got it wrong. I was never a teacher. I was a substitute teacher, and trust, me there's a great deal of difference. I did however get the privilege of observing teachers at their work; dedicated to the growth of their children. I'm glad I took on that duty for three years.
cck March 21, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Sorry Mr. Baer. I was trying to respond to ATF saying that I was mischaracterizing the no side by pointing out that jfb called teachers "reflexively liberal, unionized robots".
James Baer March 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM
All the name calling and negative comments will not change the outcome one iota. How about we join forces to help Ladue to become an even better district. I find it odd that Ladue over 50+ years has been recognized as one of the finest public school districts in the nation with over 90 percent of its students going on to four year colleges, yet there are many in this community who want to savage the district and punish it financially. I suppose everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course
flyoverland March 21, 2012 at 01:26 PM
You decry "name calling," and in the same paragraph accuse those who have a fiscal disagreement with the school district of wanting to "savage the district." How is wanting fiscal responsibility that will save the district "savaging" anything? The board's own budget shows it careening off the deficit cliff again in a few years, EVEN IF PROP 1 PASSES. But, the, Baer and Company will be the first ones to stand up and blame it on those greedy rich taxpayers who won't raise the tax again. A journalist is supposed to be impartial. A journalist is not supposed to be a cheerleader. A journalist is not supposed to make himself part of the story by trying to be the facilitator ("How about we join forces to help Ladue become an even better district (sic)."). How about some objective reporting?
James Baer March 21, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Jack K, your comments are well stated.

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