Opinion

Teachers were the hardest to cut

By Keith Garton, Jay Rosapepe, Patty Henderson, Chris Lemke, Kathryn Simpson & David LaRose
For the Independent

An Open Letter to our South Kitsap Community:

As you are likely aware, in recent years, South Kitsap School District has been experiencing declining student enrollment and a dramatic decrease in state funding for public education.

Like many families in our district, when facing the realities of decreasing revenue, we must adjust and adapt while keeping our priorities in order.

Our priority and our mission remain clear.  We believe that every child in South Kitsap is capable of success — no exceptions.

We make every decision in these difficult times intensely focused on doing what is best for student success.

Again, no exceptions.

We invite you to a community forum to discuss these priorities on April 27 at South Kitsap High School (from 5:30 to 8 p.m.).

There will be ample time for you to ask questions, interact with our staff, students and partners, and learn more of how we continue to “Nurture Growth, Inspire Achievement and Build Community.”

We have also invited our state legislators from the 26th and 35th Legislative Districts to attend and listen to your concerns and ideas.

SKSD continues to align our resources to our mission to ensure high levels of learning for all students.

This includes our commitment to strong core curriculum, exceptional instruction, student and family support services, safety, fine arts programs, and extra-curricular activities to keep our students motivated and engaged.

Challenges often present opportunity for review and improvement.  We are taking full advantage of this challenging opportunity.  SKSD student enrollment has declined by 5 percent in the last 5 years.

Fully 84 percent of our district’s budget has historically been spent on staffing because K-12 education is a people-centered endeavor.

We have worked very hard to keep labor reductions as far from the classroom as possible. In fact, until now, we have been very intentional to avoid teaching position reductions, except by attrition.

Instead, we eliminated, reduced hours or consolidated many classified and administrative positions, and have dramatically reduced building and department budgets.

Decreasing state funding is making it impossible to keep our class sizes as small as we would prefer. Thus, this year you will see and hear about a “reduced-education plan” that will include reducing our teaching staff and implementing a reduction in force.

We are funded based on student enrollment. With fewer students and tighter instructional funding formulas, we must also reduce the size of our teaching force above and beyond our typical annual attrition (retirements, resignations).

Unfortunately, a byproduct of this may be class sizes above what we have been accustomed to.

Ensuring our students are safe, connected, healthy, cared for, challenged and hopeful drives these difficult decisions.

Although we have closed budget gaps totaling over 19 million dollars since 2009, we have not reduced opportunities and pathways for our students — library services, counseling support, health rooms, fine arts instruction, school resources officers, and extracurricular activities that support a meaningful learning experience.

As we work through these issues, we welcome your feedback and perspective.

You have our unwavering commitment to make every decision with thoughtful consideration to what is best for every South Kitsap School District student, your student — the whole student.

No exceptions.

Keith Garton, Patty Henderson, Chris Lemke, Jay Rosapepe and Kathryn Simpson serve on the South Kitsap school board; David LaRose is the South Kitsap School District superintendent.

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