SOMERS POINT — At the same time the Somers Point School District is cutting 18.5 teacher and staff positions in its proposed 2010-11 budget, the position of superintendent is up in the air after Gerald Toscano officially retires June 30.

The Board of Education has asked Toscano if he wants to stay on as interim superintendent for a full year, but Toscano said his role was “undecided.”

Toscano’s contract paid him a base salary of about $152,000 in 2009-10.

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“After the expiration of my contract, we talked about a role for me afterwards,” Toscano said Tuesday. “It’s very uncertain. We have budgeted for an interim (superintendent), but we can’t replace the position. It’s too costly.”

Among the cuts made in next year’s budget are the loss of three part-time teaching positions, one special education position, two part-time and two full-time aides. The director of special services position also will be eliminated.

Four full-time aides, one speech position and one Spanish position will also be reduced to part-time. All field trips were also eliminated.

The district lost of $719,105 in state aid for next year’s budget, while $536,049 in aid was reduced in this year’s budget, for a total loss of $1.2 million.

“People have already been notified,” Toscano said. “It’s really hard to look someone in the face and say ‘You just lost your health benefits.’ It’s very difficult, but we’re doing the best we can.”

As it happened, Laura Durney, an aide at the Dawes Avenue Elementary School for 28 years, said she was upset about being told she was losing her health benefits by her principal and not Toscano.

“I put in almost 28 years,” she said, “and for him to not be able to come to me personally, and to have a principal do it? That’s just a slap in the face.”

In the end, Durney decided to retire rather than become a part-time employee.

“I can’t afford to lose my health benefits,” Durney said. “I’ve had two neck surgeries and issues with my back, and I figured retirement was the lesser of two evils. ... To be 59 years old and told I’m getting a pink slip? I’ve never had one in my life.”

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