A painful necessity

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By Optic Editorial Board

It’s no secret that Las Vegas City Schools has struggled with its finances for years.

This past school year, the district implemented furloughs and even switched to a four-day school week to help balance its budget.

Clearly, those half measures didn’t work, given that the district was facing a nearly $1.1 million deficit just a few months ago.

The district would be in hot water right now if not for the $750,000 in emergency supplemental funding that the state provided at the last minute. An additional $300,000 in E-rate funding that the district hadn’t been anticipating was enough to enable Las Vegas City Schools to end the current fiscal year in the black.

We bring up this history as a reminder of the precarious financial situation the district has been in recently.

It’s precisely because of that history that we feel Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez is doing the right thing by eliminating positions in the district in order to balance the budget for the upcoming school year. Cutting back on staffing is never easy, and that’s likely the reason that school district officials have avoided it in favor of things like furloughs and a reduced school week.

But all things come with a cost. The furloughs, for example, have resulted in low morale among employees. When the union representing east-side school employees was asked a few weeks ago whether the district should continue with furloughs or lay off employees, the union recommended layoffs.

The four-day week, in our view, has been a disaster, one that we feel is jeopardizing the education that our students are receiving. The jury is still out on whether the school district is going to continue with its four-day week or revert back to a five-day week.

For the sake of the district’s students, we hope they make the sensible choice and go back to the five-day week.

The sensible approach McNellis-Martinez used in developing next year’s budget gives us hope.

She announced on Monday that she is eliminating 11 positions in the district: two principals, four clerical positions, a Central Office position in the human resource office, an administrative assistant, two librarian positions and the director of transportation and maintenance post.

We take no position on her decision to terminate principals Darlene Ulibarri and Anthony Marquez. Both seem to be good people who have worked hard, but difficult choices had to be made, and who better than the superintendent to make them?

It’s worth noting that McNellis-Martinez built the budget based on the directives that were given to her by the board.

“What the board wanted me to emphasize is we are not an employment agency. We are an instructional institution. I built this around the instructional program first, and any cuts that have to come out of it will come out of non-instructional places,” McNellis-Martinez said.

Board President Gloria Lovato-Pacheco added, “The board directed the superintendent to balance the budget and to take the Band-Aid off. We asked her to not cut programs and to affect the classroom as little as possible.”

It appears that that’s exactly what McNellis-Martinez has done. Now the school board should stand behind her.