‘It’s pretty grim’: Pembroke schools to eliminate 27 positions following major budget cut

Pembroke School Board chair Andy Camidge (center) and Superintendent Patty Sherman (right) provide updates on cuts to the Pembroke school district Tuesday.

Pembroke School Board chair Andy Camidge (center) and Superintendent Patty Sherman (right) provide updates on cuts to the Pembroke school district Tuesday. JEREMY MARGOLIS / Monitor staff

 The Pembroke School Board and district administrators discussed cuts to the district’s budget.

 The Pembroke School Board and district administrators discussed cuts to the district’s budget. JEREMY MARGOLIS—Monitor staff

Pembroke School Board chair Andy Camidge (center) and Superintendent Patty Sherman (right) provide updates on cuts to the Pembroke school district Tuesday.

Pembroke School Board chair Andy Camidge (center) and Superintendent Patty Sherman (right) provide updates on cuts to the Pembroke school district Tuesday. JEREMY MARGOLIS—Monitor staff

By JEREMY MARGOLIS

Monitor staff

Published: 04-03-2024 12:54 PM

Modified: 04-03-2024 4:41 PM


Pembroke plans to eliminate 27 positions from its schools next year in response to a voter mandate to eliminate $3 million, or 10% of the budget, in the face of spiking taxes.

“It’s pretty grim, in my opinion, when you see the number of positions laid out,” school board chair Andy Camidge said.

Eleven of the district’s 130 classroom teaching positions will be eliminated. The remainder of the cuts will involve paraprofessionals, specialists, subject coaches, special education, and administrative positions.

The cuts will impact employees at each of the district’s three schools: 10 positions will be eliminated at the kindergarten through fourth grade Pembroke Hill School; eight at the fifth through eighth grade Three Rivers School; and nine at Pembroke Academy, the district’s high school.

Pembroke Hill School’s prized science, technology, engineering, art and math integration program, commonly known as ILAB, will also be cut and its teacher reassigned to another position.

Three weeks after residents voted 305-134 to lop the school’s budget, Camidge’s description of the cuts Tuesday provided the clearest picture yet of the impact on employees’ jobs – and, ultimately, students’ experiences. The elimination of two teaching positions at Pembroke Hill School is projected to cause class sizes in grades three and four to rise to 22 or 23 students, exceeding the district’s guidelines of 17 students, Superintendent Patty Sherman said in an interview Wednesday. Class sizes in the other elementary and middle school grades are not expected to exceed district guidelines.

“I don’t know that there’s a good message for any of this, but we did our best and we tried to keep students at the forefront of all of our decisions,” Sherman said.

In deciding where to make cuts, district officials attempted to spread them out to avoid decimating any particular grade level, while focusing on programs and services that go above state requirements, according to Camidge.

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The March 9 vote pitted some older residents struggling to afford their taxes against parents of school-aged children. The district’s proposed $33 million budget would have increased taxes by nearly $200 a month for a home worth $300,000.

The staff cuts are expected to save the district approximately $2.3 million, while$700,000 in non-personnel cuts is still being scrutinized.

The board had previously outlined roughly $671,000 in non-personnel costs that would have come from supplies, maintenance, special education, and curriculum development time for teachers.

“The board did not find any of these cuts to be justified,” Camidge said.

A week after multiple school board members expressed support for eliminating one of the district’s buses next year, principals at Pembroke Hill and Three Rivers schools said they didn’t support the plan, citing concerns about attendance and safety.

“If kids get off the bus and they’ve had a negative experience, then it carries over to the rest of their day,” Pembroke Hill principal Wendy Gerry said. “The more students you have on a bus, the more instances of behavior that you have.”

At least 68 incidents involving Pembroke Hill students had been reported on buses this school year, according to Gerry.

Gerry also worried that the lack of a bus would lead some families to be unable to send their students to school as consistently.

The school board has not indicated when it will decide on whether to eliminate a bus, which would save the district approximately $68,000.

In previous meetings, school board members had also discussed cutting some or all co-curricular activities, which include sports, music, and clubs.

On Tuesday, parent Lisa Ginn encouraged the school board to explore securing private-sector community sponsorships to offset a portion of the cost of co-curriculars.

“What if there’s a way where there’s a 10% cut across the board, but then make it that club’s responsibility to reach out for sponsorship,” Ginn proposed.

The school board did not respond to Ginn’s suggestion or discuss the fate of co-curriculars any further. At last week’s meeting, several members had said they were reluctant to make any cuts to the activities.

Pembroke’s next school board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 30 at Pembroke Academy.