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Subtraction: two more half-day furloughs in schools

Educators in the South Kitsap School District will have two half-day furloughs during the upcoming year.

SKSD board members approved that measure by last week’s meeting.

Superintendent Dave LaRose said the furlough days were necessitated when state legislators instituted a 1.9 percent pay reduction for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers in May. Similar to other districts, SKSD had to negotiate with its union, South Kitsap Educators Association, on how to handle the cuts.

SKEA president Judy Arbogast said legislators took “the fairness totally away” when they ask each school districts to collectively bargain those cuts. She said some wealthier districts were able to make cuts from other programs rather than reducing salary for teachers.

LaRose said the two furlough days will be Feb. 17 and May 25, which are Fridays before holiday weekends. In addition, teachers will not be paid for hours in school after students are released before Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

Those days were selected, LaRose said, because attendance generally is lower before holiday weekends. While he said the choices were “well received” by staff members, no one is happy about the result.

“The last thing we want to do when we’re trying to do more for kids is less days for kids,” said LaRose, who along with deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner and assistant superintendent Greg Roberts will take four furlough days during the upcoming school year. “We don’t like taking time away from instruction any more than we like the state taking money away from teachers.”

LaRose said reducing the number of days in school was not an option. State law requires school to be in session for 180 days except if a district is approved for a waiver.

Arbogast said the 1.9 percent salary reduction represents about three days work for teachers.

“These four half days are not something we want,” she said. “It’s to kind of balance things out for that pay that teachers aren’t getting. The state by saying that you still have to work 180 days means they want you to work for free.”

• Arbogast said SKSD’s final reduction-in-force (FTE) notice cut 0.2 full-time equivalent positions.

In April, district officials announced that as many as 23 teachers could receive notice that their contracts would not be renewed, but that number steadily decreased through attrition.

Arbogast said SKSD still will lose about 30 FTE from last year, and teaching positions in the district have been reduced at a rate quicker than the district’s enrollment decline.

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