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School districts focus on saving staff

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2009

Final layoff figures not as bad as feared, officials say

The Inland Northwest’s education layoff numbers are in, and they’re not as bad as many had feared.

Getting much of the credit for staving off major staff reductions are federal stimulus spending, creative cost-cutting and, in some cases, growing enrollment, which brings in greater per-student state funding.

“The goal was to save people,” said Wayne Leonard, Mead School District business manager.

That sentiment was echoed by Coeur d’Alene Superintendent Hazel Bauman. “People will come before stuff. We’re distributing the pain, so to speak.”

In Idaho, negotiations with teachers are just beginning. Pay freezes and salary reductions are expected to be on the table, officials say.

“There have been many discussions,” said Tom Taggart, business manager of the Lakeland Joint School District. “The feeling is if we could save jobs by taking pay cuts, then they were willing to do that.”

Today is the deadline for notifying teachers, counselors, librarians or other school district certified staff in Washington and Idaho whose contracts will not be renewed. Many of the personnel cuts already have been announced, though.

In school districts across Spokane County, a combined 162 teachers, counselors and librarians were told they may not have jobs next year. Some could be hired back by the end of the summer, officials said.

The layoff announcements come as hundreds of educators converge on Spokane for the Washington Education Association’s 89th annual convention. Gov. Chris Gregoire, who enjoyed campaign support from teachers during a tough re-election bid but has since come under fire for supporting pay cuts, kicked off the event Thursday along with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

The crowd of nearly 1,000 educators greeted Gregoire with applause. But when she finished her prepared remarks, nearly the entire group held up pink signs urging veto of House Bill 2261, a complex measure that supporters say will better position Washington’s education system for the challenges of the future but that critics say lacks financial backing.

Here’s a look at how many positions are being eliminated at Inland Northwest school districts:

Spokane Public Schools

Officials sent out 103 layoff notices Tuesday, but say they expect to hire back all but about 40 of the teachers and staff.

There are 180 one-year contracts that were not renewed – a common procedure. Those contracts are mostly with teachers who were hired for one school year to fill in while another teacher was on sabbatical. Returning teachers will fill those positions.

A smaller portion of those contracts were for part-time positions, for which people will be allowed to reapply during the summer, also common procedure.

Total cuts needed: $8.8 million.

Mead School District

No layoffs, 10 positions unfilled. Total cut: $2.8 million.

East Valley

Sent out 31 layoff notices. Total cuts needed: $1.5 million.

Central Valley

No layoff notices, but 13 retiring teachers will not be replaced, and did not renew the contracts of 29 teachers who were on one-year contracts. The district hopes to refill all 29 teaching positions.

Total cuts needed: $3.4 million.

West Valley

No layoff notices. Officials are not renewing the one-year contracts of 26 teachers, but expect to hire half of them back. Total cuts needed: $1.2 million.

Freeman

No layoff notices, a reduction of one teacher. Total cuts needed: $367,000.

Liberty

No layoff notices, but a teacher who is moving to administration will not be replaced. Total cuts needed: $160,000.

Medical Lake

Six positions, including two teachers and two administrators, will not be filled. Plus, 2.6 teachers were laid off. Total cuts: $730,000.

Coeur d’Alene

No layoff notices, but 18.9 positions will remain unfilled. Total cuts: About $5 million.

Post Falls

No layoffs, eight positions unfilled. Total cuts: $500,000.

Growing enrollment over the last 17 years has helped the district, said Sid Armstrong, the director’s director of business.

Lakeland

No layoffs, eight positions unfilled. Total cuts: $650,000.

Boundary County

Implemented layoffs of 3.75 positions in January in preparation for an expected tough budget. One more position will be lost. Total cuts: $418,268.

Staff writers Nina Culver and Jim Camden contributed to this report.

 

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