Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community School cuts staff by 8

3 additional positions reduced to part-time

Express Staff Writer

The Community School in Sun Valley has announced that it will have eight fewer staff members next school year because of a shortfall in revenue attributed to the economic recession. Photo by Willy Cook

The Community School has announced that hard economic times have forced the private school in Sun Valley to reduce staff for the coming school year.

Incoming Head of School David Holmes said 11 jobs will be affected. Eight will be eliminated and three reduced from full to part time. The Community School currently has a staff of 73.

"Basically, we have eliminated two teaching positions and the rest of the moves are administrative and educational support," said Holmes, who takes over on July 1 as head of school from Andy Jones-Wilkins, who announced his resignation last summer. "The major savings in all of the moves is in administration.

"We're restructuring several positions in order to deal with the economic situation. It's basically doing more with less. We owe it to our current and future students and parents to have a healthy school. We're dealing with some challenges that are not unique. Every nonprofit in the nation is having to deal with declining funding."

Holmes said Jones-Wilkins met with affected staff Thursday to inform them that their contracts would not be renewed for fiscal year 2012, which starts July 1. The staff will remain at the jobs though the rest of the school year, he said.

The staff reduction was announced to parents Thursday afternoon in an e-mail from Jones-Wilkins and Holmes. It was formally announced to the news media in a news release issued Monday.

Neither the e-mail nor the news release provided specific information as to how many positions would be affected, but Holmes released the numbers later Monday in an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express.

Holmes said the decision to reduce staff was necessitated by declining revenue and not by declining enrollment.

He said the school was able to absorb a $598,000 budget deficit this year by using "discretionary endowment funds," which he described as monetary donations to the school that are not identified for a specific purpose.

Without staff reductions, or other cost-saving measures, Holmes said, the school projected a $1 million shortfall for fiscal 2012.

He said this year's budget is $5.7 million, and he expects next year's budget to be about $5 million. </p>

The Community School has maintained a fairly consistent enrollment of about 300 students during the last several years.

Holmes said the school has 299 students this year, compared to 289 for the 2009-10 school year. He said enrollment was 307 in 2008-09, 298 in 2007-08, 318 in 2006-07 and 300 in 2005-06.

What has changed, Holmes said, is the number of "full-paid" students, which this year is at 179, compared to 225 four years ago.

Many of the school's students are given economic assistance for tuition, which varies from grade to grade. Annual tuition for kindergarten students is $9,900 and for first-graders is $11,900. Annual tuition for grades two through five is $19,990 per year, for middle school students is $23,200, and for high school students is $23,600.

Holmes said the school will continue to operate under the practice of providing financial assistance to families who couldn't otherwise afford to enroll their children.

"We have a substantial financial-aid program, and this year 30 percent of our students are receiving financial aid," he said. "Like every other private school, we want to do all that we can to see that kids can attend our school."

Holmes noted that the Community School has recently undertaken new initiatives to recruit new students, both from the United States and abroad. The school plans to establish a residential program for boarding students next year and recently announced the establishment of the Sun Valley Ski Academy, which in conjunction with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation will provide an opportunity for aspiring athletes to refine their skiing skills while obtaining an education.

School board Vice Chair Joan Swift, who becomes board chair in July, said Community School programs should not be adversely affected by the staff reduction.

"Given the necessity of this reorganization, we feel we've been responsible in preserving the academic quality of the school," Swift said. "These changes, which leave all of our programs intact, will not impact the quality of the education our students receive."

Terry Smith:

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