LOWELL | While the Tri-Creek School Corp. board has discussed for some time ways to boost student numbers and the district's pocketbook, the board is now faced with the possibility of cutting teaching positions for the bottom line.
"We have lost 311 students since 2009," Superintendent Debra Howe told the School Board last week. "That's significant."
Howe said the state's reformulation for educational funding that ties state funds to student population hit at a time when Tri-Creek numbers began their reversal from growth to declining.
"We're at the significant number," Howe said. Some difficult decisions may have to be made, she said.
Board member Michelle Dumbsky said the loss of two of the town's four industries — Rieter Automotive Systems and Ashland Industries — were an added hard hit in the past five years to the district's tax base.
Rieter, the town's largest employer, closed its doors in November 2010.
Howe said information on outside enrollment and how those not living in the district can enroll in Tri-Creek is now on the district's website. Approved earlier by the board, that measure is aimed at boosting student numbers and dollars.
Howe's and the board's comments followed an impassioned plea from Pete Iussig, co-president of the Tri-Creek Teachers Organization.
Iussig urged the board to find a way to avoid teacher layoffs.
"I'm so proud we've never riffed (RIF, reduction in force) our teachers," he said. "Dr. Howe and I have been trying to find ways around that," he said. With little success, he appealed to the board Thursday.
The possibility of being forced to cut successful teachers who excel in the classroom as well as in the athletic arena is wrenching, Iussig said.
"It's hard on us, too. We are still trying to work this out," said Doug Ward, board president.
Nothing is cast in stone, Howe said.
"The numbers are continuing to change," she said.
Howe said one idea under consideration is increasing CTE classes, once known as vocational.
"Federal money comes with that," she said.
Continued growth in Tri-Creek's vast rural district which was a popular draw to urbanites going suburban is less likely now, Howe said. Instead, studies show most are opting to remain urban dwellers closer to their jobs due to higher gas prices.