Wayne Preparatory Academy has fired eight staff members due to low enrollment numbers, WPA board of directors chair Sharon Thompson said Tuesday.
Among those cut were three writing teachers and several other office administrators, including one responsible for student records such as attendance. The school also cut its exceptional children coordinator, who managed the school's special-needs programs.
The cuts came Friday, some during the middle of the day and some ahead of a staff meeting called by the WPA board after school. Sherri Cogdell, a 35-year veteran of the Wayne County Public Schools system, had been working as a fifth-grade writing teacher since August.
She said she was shocked to have been let go, especially after the school sought her out in the first place.
"I did not seek this position, I was retired," she said. "They called me and said they wanted a national board certified teacher for writing, and I took the job. How are you going to go out and interview for a job without knowing that you can afford it?"
Thompson said that the cuts were necessary because enrollment at the school was lower than expected, though she could not provide exact enrollment numbers.
"We never want to be in a position where we have to let people go, but when the board sat down with administration, we did what we decided would be the least detrimental to the students," she said.
Thompson said that the school did not know until the 20th day of school what its state and local funding allocation -- based on enrollment -- would be, which is why positions, Cogdell's among them, had been filled and then cut within two months.
She said that some parents may have pulled their children because the school's middle school building -- once expected to be done by the end of 2017 -- is not complete yet. The school broke ground on the building in March, but construction did not begin until early September. The middle school classes are being held in the meantime at the Generation Church at 3000 Summit Road.
Cutting writing teachers in grades three and five, as well a teacher from first grade, will raise class sizes at the school as classes are combined, Thompson said.
"Where we had classes that had maybe 15 or 16 students, now maybe we have 20," she said. "It's not like we're overfilling classes or anything."
This is not the first time WPA's budget has missed the mark due to enrollment. A similar situation cropped up in September of 2016, when WPA board attorney Glenn Barfield told parents that money in the school's approved budget fell short once calculations had finished.
Thompson said that WPA is not the only school to see a reduction in staff due to enrollment, and said she had heard of similar issues in the Wayne County Public School system.
Ken Derksen, WCPS spokesman, said that the district has not cut a single position due to enrollment, and is in fact adding classrooms this year. Overall enrollment in the public school system increased slightly this year from last year, with 18,547 students on Sept. 12, 2016, and 18,572 on Sept. 11 this year.
Tommy's Road Elementary, up the street from Wayne Prep, saw its enrollment increase by seven students this year compared to the 2015-16 school.