The vote was 6-2, with board members Kevin Kay and Alex Saitta voting against the action.
Superintendent Henry Hunt recommended the position cuts during an executive session.
The board approved the elimination of 18 literacy specialists, 2 reading recovery interventionists, 8.6 positions from central services and district-wide personnel, 5.67 clerical positions, 16.03 media clerks, 2 media specialists and 7 guidance counselors.
A total of $192,588 will also be cut from the special education program at Simpson Academy that will reflect a reduction in staff of 6.25 positions; the LHS and DHS bus centers will be merged leading to one position cut; and the 4K program will be reduced to only one class per elementary school, for a reduction of four teacher and four aide position cuts.
Along with the recommended position cuts, the board agreed to strictly adhere to the 21.5 to 1 student to teacher ratio at all schools, with some exceptions being made at schools with special needs, Hunt said.
Hunt said the recommendations were difficult to make and were forced on the school district because of the anticipated magnitude of state funding cuts.
He said depending on final figures from the state, the necessary cuts may be adjusted, or possible go even deeper.
Chairman Jim Shelton also said the school district’s reduction force policy will be followed and that all retirements and voluntary resignations would be considered before people are affected.
Approved cuts in personnel will add up to about $3 million in savings, but school board officials said they currently expect a state funding shortfall of $7.5 million.
Additional cuts are expected to be made in other areas as the budget process continues, however the board took action concerning personnel because district staff needs sufficient time to prepare and distribute contracts by May 15, according to Hunt.
Saitta said he voted against the cuts because he felt they don’t work toward a needed change in structure at the school district.
“We have people making $90,000 and $100,000 a year, but we don’t have the revenue to support that,” he said.
Saitta said that instead of making cuts to the classroom, top salaries should be cut by about 10 percent and positions from the top should be cut.
“But that’s not happening,” he said. “We’re seeing a reduction at the bottom, and I just can’t support it.”
Board member B.J. Skelton noted the approved cut to central services staff was “not insignificant.”
He spoke out against state-mandated teacher raises the district must give while at the same time cutting positions.
“I can’t support that, but that’s where we are,” he said.
And at-large board member Shirley Jones said none of the trustees were happy about having to make the cuts.
A number of parents and students spoke following the vote in support of the STARS program at Simpson Academy and of the reading recovery program.
All praised the programs and their teachers, noting the differences they’ve made in students’ lives and education.