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Faculty members cut in order to lower costs

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On April 25, the entire faculty and staff gathered in the Brown Room after school for a mandatory meeting to discuss JC’s financial goals and the steps needed to reach them. In order to reach these goals, there were budget cuts, downsizing staff, and trimming of insurance costs.

After sharing background information and charts displaying the school’s finances during the meeting, the Board of Trustees explained the steps that needed to be taken to prevent future financial issues. “We announced that part of the way we address this is by reducing the number of employees and that we were meeting with them to explain to them the difficult decision that had to be made,” O’Hara said.

Three days after the meeting, President and Interim Principal Richard O’Hara sent an email out to the community addressing the discussion that took place in the meeting. This email addressed the Board of Trustees’ decision to take steps, including reduction in personnel, in order to “ensure the continued financial health of the school.” This is the third time cutting back has occurred during O’Hara’s ten years at JC

Although this was a difficult decision, O’Hara says that the school needed to “right-size,” meaning that the number of employees must be compatible with the number of students. “Most of the budget is devoted to salary and benefits, so when there is a need to right-size given the number of students at a particular level of tuition and class size, you have to get all those pieces in sync,” O’Hara said.

“There were three folks that we had to talk to, somebody else retired, and then Ms. Jennings left and wasn’t replaced so [the resignation] was the easy one,” he said. Although this covers the teaching staff, O’Hara said that the Board will look at other staff positions to potentially cut.

According to O’Hara, the discussion of ways to prevent financial difficulty in the future began around the same time as the decision to freeze the tuition for the 2017-18 school year. “Maybe we should have done it three or four years ago, but we didn’t. We chose to keep going and rely on enrollment growth, [and] we increased our salary pool over that time,” he said.

When the Strategic Plan is published, “everybody will see in a very transparent way the goals that our Board approved,” according to O’Hara. The cost-cutting will hopefully save the school “hundreds of thousands that we needed to save.”

The Strategic Plan suggests that the school work toward adjusting salaries and benefits to become more in line with other schools. “Salaries were 63 percent of the net tuition revenue and that compared to other schools is very high. It should be more in the mid 50s, so that was one of the recommendations from the Strategic Plan,” he said. The net tuition revenue is the amount of money “that comes in from tuition after financial aid is taken out.”

Cutting back on the number of faculty members will affect the class sizes. “We had gotten down to where the average was 16 or 17, and that means there are probably ways to make it more efficient,” he said. “Instead of having seven people in a department, if your sections are going to be 21 instead of 17, you’re going to require fewer teachers.”

In order to accommodate for the faculty changes, teachers may also have to pick up additional classes. “There might be some cases where somebody had taught a full load before and there weren’t enough sign ups for one or two classes, so their teaching loads may be reduced [and] that could have an impact on salary,” he said.

The Archdiocese and their Human Resources Department have also been involved during the process of cutting back. According to O’Hara, they were directly involved with those teachers who did not receive their contracts and provided resources for them. “They also offered counseling for those teachers [and were there] if they had any questions about how they should proceed [and] where to look. [The Archdiocese] can make a recommendation to a potential employer,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara assures that JC is financially stable and that the Board is forward thinking. “We’re not in crisis, we just had to do some readjustments, even if it’s painful steps, to make sure that we will be financially stable and that we’re not going down the wrong path for too long until it’s too late,” he said.

Caroline Cooney is the Editor in Chief of The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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Faculty members cut in order to lower costs