Jobs at Francis Howell School District saved thanks to last-minute federal aid

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Plans to cut millions of dollars from the Francis Howell School District budget were partially put on hold Thursday night, saving up to 100 jobs in the process.

Teacher, administrator, and staff positions were to be eliminated, adding up to a savings of nearly $7 million. But just as the cuts were about to be approved, the federal government stepped in.

People showed up at the board meeting armed with signs and loud voices urging members to vote no.

The proposal called for eliminating 68 teachers, a few administrators, and about 80 staff member positions. Teacher Sarah Caswell addressed the board before the scheduled vote.

“The savings of the district are coming from the backs the teachers both emotionally and financially,” she said.

The superintendent said money is short because voters turned down three recent tax increases, costs for staff and benefits are rising and the pandemic is costing the district extra money.

“I’m in danger of losing my job as a result of an aggressive staffing plan imposed,” said teacher Jane Kelley.

When it came time to vote, school officials submitted a modified proposal – 20 teacher jobs would be saved and the other 48 could stay in place depending on the number of employees who retire.

The president of the teacher’s union, Anita Kuehner, said members are somewhat satisfied.

“We’re happy that there will be 20 jobs saved. We still believe that we could have saved more jobs. Every cut that we make hurts kids,” she said.

The school district learned Thursday that $3.8 million in COVID relief money will soon be coming to the district. They can use the money to pay teachers. Next year, if they can’t find more money, there could be layoffs.

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