Tonganoxie students pitch in to help
Tonganoxie Elementary School students started a fund for paraprofessional Stephanie Maurer.
A few students put money together and amassed $1.47 in change for the para, who has worked in the role nine years.
“It was to save Mrs. Maurer’s job, which I thought was cute,” Maurer said.
The students were raising the money because the district has eliminated her position, an early victim of budget cuts in the USD 464.
Superintendent Lyn Rantz and the Tonganoxie School Board have said the Legislature’s new block funding has forced the district’s hand to start making difficult cuts.
A middle school music teacher is another casualty so far, as well as two other paraprofessionals at the elementary school.
Rantz has said TMS teacher Kimberlyn Angelo’s departure because of budget cuts will have zero impact on student opportunities for middle school music, with high school and middle school band instructor Charles Van Middlesworth being able to move his schedule to accommodate the change.
Freshman athletics schedules also were on the chopping block, but Rantz said at a special meeting — nearly 200 patrons attended — that league rules don’t allow that cut. Board member Kay Smith asked Rantz to look into potential sports cuts at the middle school level.
Rantz and the board have stressed that the cuts have been difficult to make and more tough decisions loom.
Maurer has been a paraprofessional for nine years, while the other two paras to lose their jobs: Christy Angell and Michelle Perich, have been in the district seven and three years respectively, Maurer said.
The second-grade para said the final days of school were difficult. She said she was thankful the last day was only a half-day because of the goodbyes.
“It’s hard for teachers, hard for us obviously because we love our jobs and we know we’re not coming back,” Maurer said. “It’s tough on the kids.
“I’ve never seen so many tears on the last day of school before,” Maurer said.
There have been concerns raised that special education paraprofessionals could be cut as well, but Rantz has explained that those positions are federally funded and local cuts don’t affect them.
Rantz estimated that the reduction of the three paraprofessional positions amounts to about $47,500.
Some patrons pushed for — and the board approved — a public vote to give the board authority to increase the local option budget from 30 percent to 33 percent. If voters approve the measure next month through a mail-ballot election, the board would have the authority to increase the LOB. That would bring in a maximum anticipated revenue of $370,000. For a home valued at $150,000, that amounts to an additional $70 in annual property taxes. That number jumps to $95 for a $200,000 home and $135 for a $300,000 house.
Maurer hopes if the vote passes that the district would reinstate the paraprofessional positions. But she and other paras don’t do it for the money.
“It’s because you love it,” she said.
The board’s next meeting will be 6 p.m. Monday at the Chieftain Room on the Tonganoxie High School campus.