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School district will lay off fewer teachers than feared

There will be significantly fewer teacher layoffs in the South Kitsap School District than initially feared.

SKSD superintendent Dave LaRose said Tuesday that attrition through retirements and resignations means the district now needs to cut 4.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers.

LaRose said that he and South Kitsap Education Association president Judy Arbogast recently visited with five educators who were served reduction-in-force (RIF) notices.

He said he remains hopeful that SKSD will be able to cut even fewer teachers and that it is feasible that none of those who received RIFs will lose their jobs.

SKSD is cutting 25 FTEs as it attempts to reduce a deficit that assistant superintendent for business and support Terri Patton estimated at $6.5 million in April. But most of those now have been eliminated through attrition.

District officials announced at the April 20 school board meeting that 15 FTEs needed to be cut. LaRose outlined a plan that would reduce four elementary-school positions, 6.8 at junior highs and 4.2 at South Kitsap High School.

How much further that number is reduced will depend on more than just attrition. LaRose said the district will analyze “endorsements” when determining how layoffs can be mitigated. For example, it might not be practical for a physical-education teacher to replace someone from the Social Studies department.

SKSD officials also must deal with last week’s announcement that lawmakers in the state Senate and House agreed to cut pay for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers 1.9 percent and 3 percent for school administrative staff.

Arbogast said it creates some challenges because the 3 percent pay cut for state workers comes through unpaid time off. But she said lawmakers have not proposed furlough days for teachers or reducing the required 180 classroom days.

Both Arbogast and LaRose said bargaining teams from the district and SKEA will gather to negotiate any changes. Both said they were reviewing the “language” of the agreement and added they would not have a timeline on potential salary adjustments because of that.

LaRose said that also applies to administrative pay reductions. In addition to deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner and assistant superintendent for human resources Greg Roberts, LaRose agreed to take four furlough days during the 2011-12 school year to mitigate RIFs and is uncertain whether he and his colleagues will take more because of the lawmakers’ agreement.

“We’re trying to make sense of it right now,” he said.

Arbogast and LaRose both expressed concern that the Legislature made the cuts but has left school districts responsible for applying them. Arbogast said that means wealthier districts could avoid pay reductions altogether by allowing taxpayers to raise levy lids.

Last year, the state Legislature passed a measure that allows districts to raise their lids from 24 to 28 percent from 2011-17. Districts that were grandfathered in at higher rates also were allowed to raise their lids as much as 4 percent. SKSD generally has been around 20 percent.

“Other districts are raising the tax,” Arbogast said. “My belief is that it increases the disparity between wealthy and non-wealthy school districts.” • SKSD will run its federally funded free summer-lunch program to serve children who are 18 years old or younger.

The lunch portion of the program runs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 27 through Aug. 19 at East Port Orchard, Orchard Heights and Sidney Glen elementary schools.

In addition to the lunches, LaRose said activities — ranging from reading to rocket building — will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on those days. The activities portion of the program is run by various community businesses and organizations.

 

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