Lower enrollment results in faculty cuts

With a 237 member senior class set to graduate in June and the expectation of the incoming freshman class numbering around 190, JC is preparing to lose an estimated one million dollars in tuition, according to Principal Paul Barker.

“This is a business where the biggest expense is salaries and benefits. If you have one million less in your account than you had a year ago, then you can’t keep the same number of people employed,” said Barker.

As a result, “we have three faculty members who have taken an early retirement, one teacher who has indicated that she will not return next year, and we have notified four teachers that we will not be extending them a contract for 2010-2011,” said Barker.

Even with such decisions already made, “I think it’s likely that there will also be further reductions and consolidations of positions among the nonteaching staff in anticipation of a significant drop in enrollment and one that we could potentially experience not just this year, but next year depending on the economy and other factors. We have to be prepared for that possibility,” said President Richard O’Hara.

An “early retirement incentive” was offered for teachers. According to O’Hara, those eligible were at least 60 years of age and taught at school for 10 years or more.

“The payment was made in honor of their service and it was tied to their length of service. [However], the teachers still receive their pensions through the archdiocese,” said O’Hara.

In addition, “For the second year in a row, the rest of the faculty and staff will not get a salary increase,” said Barker. “Nobody’s getting a raise.”

75 percent of the 2010-2011 budget will go towards salaries and benefits for all employees, according to Director of Finance Kay Nichols.

Still, the money cannot be cut in some areas of the budget because, according to Barker, there are “still fixed costs for running the school.”

The budget for the 2010-2011 school year was approved at the January 27 Board of Trustees meeting. The Board planned for a school wide population of 745 students next year, a decrease from the current enrollment of 829.

However, President Richard O’Hara doesn’t see it as “a cause for panic.”

He added, “When you set the budget, you have to be conservative. The challenge we have is with such a big senior class and given the economy [and] the demographics, we’ve been getting freshman classes right around 190. We’ve seen this coming.”

Even with fewer teachers, “If our numbers are correct, there will be no great shift in class sizes or anything like that. You won’t suddenly have 40 in a class. Class sizes will be about the same that they are now,” said Barker.

Other concerns about the future of teachers at school have been brought to the attention of the Faculty Executive Committee, a “formal group that reports to the administration and the Board,” said member Bob Schick. “We appreciate the fact that there are budgetary issues because there are so many fewer freshmen coming in than seniors who are leaving. We know it’s a matter of dollars and cents.”

History teacher James Fendryk added, “Obviously, in tough economic times, certain measures need to be taken. Some people forget that our business is tuition-driven and if we’re losing the a lot of students, it’s not really something the school can help.”

Although recognizing the need for cuts in various aspects of the budget, Schick said, “All we really ask as faculty members is that they look everywhere for cuts rather than just deciding if we’ve lost this many students than we need to lose this many teachers.  We need to look at other creative ways to save money around here.”

These solutions were discussed by the faculty, who “came up with all kinds of ideas and many of them have been implemented,” said Schick. “We’re using significantly less paper this year. I personally would go the Jimmy Carter route and dial down the thermostat.”

Fendryk said, “I wish there was another way they could fix it [the budgetary concern], but if they did fix it that way [by not letting teachers go], it would have to involve teachers actually taking pay cuts, and I don’t think anybody’s in a position to accept that.”

Economic problems continue to be a concern both on and off campus; Barker said, “You read the paper and they say the economy is picking up, [but] where? I haven’t noticed. It’s been a jobless recovery and we know how many of our families are struggling.”

Kate Froehlich can be reached for comment at [email protected].