'It doesn't make sense': CPS staff say superintendent's proposed budget focuses on the wrong areas
Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright presented a possiblebudget plan for the 2023-24 fiscal year Monday night.
The proposed budget totals $565 million. While Wright pointed out the budget wasn't finalized, it still garnered criticism from teachers, counselors and parents and guardians since the plan reduced the district's budget by $48 million compared to the previous fiscal year.
At the start of the presentation, CPS Treasurer Jennifer Wagner explained the reduction, saying it was due to a decrease in pandemic emergency relief funding, among other financial factors.
Woodward High School counselor Brianca Gay was one of many CPS counselors and teachers that identified issues with the plan, particularly its staffing changes. The initial budget intended to reduce the number of positions made possible by the emergency relief funding — like primary reading specialists and school community and career technology coordinators — while adding new high-paying positions like graduation and attendance specialists.
Gay and other counselors say the superintendent should have consulted staff about these new positions because it would bring in extra personnel to do a job already being handled by counselors.
"We just need to collaborate. We need to be involved in this process. We are the graduation specialists," Gay said. "If there's a need, we can collaborate and come up together to find a solution of what will work for our schools and for our students, and support them."
Others, like Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Julie Setters, say the superintendent's budget focuses on the wrong areas and would unnecessarily take away resources that benefited students over the past couple of years.
"Why are we reducing our budget to that amount? It doesn't make sense to me. Our students deserve better. Shame on CPS for cutting our budget when our students need the extra support now more than ever," Setters told the board.
Wright explained the new specialist roles are a part of her plan to improve upon the district's low graduation and attendance rates, which has been a primary focus for the superintendent since she took over the position last year.
After staff and parents expressed their concerns during public comment. The superintendent acknowledged that the budget needed to be updated and she would work with multiple groups associated with CPS over the next few weeks to create a more complete budget. Wright is expected to present the new plan at the board's next meeting April 10.
Accusations against Wright
Although Wright says she'll be ready to listen to teachers and staff, the next few weeks could be more of a challenge for the superintendent after a letter addressed to the Board of Education by union leaders from the Cincinnati Association of Administrators and Supervisors (CAAS) claimed Wright was reluctant to collaborate with union groups and created a culture of intimidation and fear among employees.
Wright released a response to the letter, saying she is committed to improving the district and will continue to work with union leaders to find solutions.
CAAS requested a meeting with the board to directly address these concerns.