May 30, 2009 in Washington Voices

EVSD plan would save jobs

School board will hear proposal for cuts in administration, dipping into reserves,
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The East Valley School District won’t have to lay off teachers or cut popular programs as originally feared if residents give their blessing Monday to an alternate proposal for closing a $1.5 million revenue shortfall.

The school board has scheduled a public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss a plan Superintendent John Glenewinkel presented to the board earlier this week. The meeting will be in the district office at 12325 E. Grace Ave.

Glenewinkel said the new plan, based on patrons’ comments at previous public meetings, would eliminate the need to lay off 11 or so teachers and to slash music classes and programs for gifted students and those in need of remedial instruction.

Previous cuts probably would have eliminated elementary and middle school music programs and reduced opportunities for high school students, Glenewinkel said.

No reduction was planned in the district’s classified staff, which Glenewinkel said already was a “skeleton crew,” but teacher layoffs would have trimmed about $800,000 from the budget.

“The community has been pretty clear with us that they would like us to continue the employment of the teachers who have demonstrated outstanding talent but face layoff,” Glenewinkel said.

He said public comments in previous meetings have been “positive and designed to help us get out of this situation,” for which he is grateful. “Knowing they’re behind us helps tremendously with the confidence level.”

Although reduction-in-force notices were sent to 31 teachers to satisfy contractual obligations, Glenewinkel said only about 11 were expected to be laid off for the coming school year.

He said the new budget plan is based on heavy cuts in administration, dipping into the district’s reserves, putting off curriculum purchases and confirmation that federal payments will cover nearly one-third of the expected shortfall.

Glenewinkel said he now is confident the district will receive about $400,000 federal money for special education programs and about $85,000 for Title 1 programs to help disadvantaged students. That reduced the necessary cuts to about $1 million.

About $400,000 worth of cuts in the administrative office and deferred curriculum purchases of approximately $200,000 would cover much of the remaining shortfall. The remaining $400,000 would be drawn from budget reserves.

Glenewinkel said reserves would fall to approximately $1.25 million, or around 3 percent of the coming school year’s $43 million budget.

Administrative office cuts are to be accomplished not filling a vacant assistant superintendent’s position and by eliminating two other positions. Communications officer Judi Christianson is to be laid off and, unless other suitable work can be found for him, assessment and staff development coordinator Steve Pointer also will be laid off, Glenewinkel said.

In addition, he said a contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for a school resource officer is to be canceled.

The superintendent’s plan calls for transferring an assistant principal from East Valley High School to the administrative office to handle a variety of duties, including Pointer’s and management of Title 1 programs. The assistant principal would be replaced by promoting a teacher at the high school to “dean of students,” a position that would pay less than the assistant principal’s salary.

The assistant superintendent of operations position that will remain dark has been vacant since the start of the year when Skip Berquam stepped down. Berquam was a retired school superintendent who took the job on an interim basis. He had been filling in for Debra Howard while she was interim superintendent.

Glenewinkel said Howard would have been given back her old job when he became superintendent, but she instead became superintendent of the Selah School District near Yakima.

There may be some more administrative reorganization, “but I’m not certain what that looks like yet,” Glenewinkel said.

On top of the administrative cuts, every department has been asked to find ways to cut spending by 10 percent. Those cuts could include leaving a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician’s position vacant and having the district’s maintenance supervisor continue to handle those duties, Glenewinkel suggested.

The new budget plan also depends on some anticipated retirements and a hope that stronger programs will stop students from fleeing to other districts.

“I don’t think it’s a serious problem, but I think there’s a perception of that situation out there,” Glenewinkel said. “The perception was brought forward in the community meetings, and we simply need to address it.”

He said students are largely free to go to other districts if they don’t like their own, thanks to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Glenewinkel said the new budget plan is so tight it makes him nervous, and the district faces more work in the coming year to strengthen its finances.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “This economy could do all kinds of things yet.”

For now, though, “if the community gives us the thumbs-up on Monday, this is what I think we can do,” he said.

John Craig may be contacted at johnc@spokesman.com.


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