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South Bend school cuts target teachers, aides

SOUTH BEND — Teachers, aides and custodians could lose their jobs and two schools could close in South Bend under a proposal to help the city's schools overcome a $10 million budget shortfall.

The proposal by Superintendent Carole Schmidt, to be unveiled at Wednesday's school board meeting, also includes reorganizing the central office and using an outside firm to supply school nurses, the South Bend Tribune reported.

Schmidt's plan is designed to save more than $12 million by the end of the year. The school board can accept the proposal, modify it or reject it, board President Roger Parent said.

Parent said his priority as he considers cuts is to ensure that the district can still "focus on what happens in the classroom and not take away from the heart of that."

Schmidt's proposal calls for eliminating 80 teachers and many part-time teachers' aides, 15 custodial positions and 16 special education staff positions. But it doesn't include items previously discussed, such as furlough days for principals and elimination of kindergarten aides. Nor does it propose reducing the school system's legal fees, which in 2010 exceeded those of any district in the state.

School officials haven't determined which schools could close but are looking at an architect's proposals that include shifting boundaries and expanding a Montessori program.

The Montessori expansion could wind up costing the district more money, however, and Parent said it's not necessarily something the board will pursue.

He said board members believe the district should expand programs that parents "clamor for."

"On the other hand," he said, "we are in the position to close some schools."

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