Arrow-right Camera


School workers won’t lose jobs

Fri., May 20, 2011

Fifty-three Spokane Public Schools employees, mostly counselors, were recalled Thursday, and more recalls soon could follow.

Counselors were among the 238 employees who received layoff notices earlier this month as the school board explores ways to close a $9 million to $12 million budget hole.

Now, some suggested cuts are being ruled out, such as dismissing counselors, while other options appear closer to becoming a reality, such as reducing salaries for administrators and eliminating instructional coaches.

“We do know that the counseling program will not need to be reduced drastically, and possibly not at all,” said Staci Vesneske, assistant superintendent. “The board is looking at other ways to close the gap.”

Of the 185 others who received layoff notices, “I anticipate being able to call back half, depending on what the Legislature does,” Vesneske said Thursday.

She added, “That is anticipated to occur after June 8, but it could take longer if the Legislature is not finished by that time.”

Many decisions remain tabled for consideration until officials receive input at public forums next week.

“What we are taking to the community is a significant amount of cuts,” said Superintendent Nancy Stowell. “But what is important is that we are going to the community. It’s important to hear from the staff, our parents and the rest of the patrons in our community.”

The cuts the board is comfortable making in order to bring back more certificated staff include reducing administration by 11 positions in teaching and learning; suspending the mentor teacher program; reducing the budget for replacing equipment such as lunchroom tables, snowblowers and tractors; reducing instructional assistants in resource rooms; suspending elementary extracurricular programs; eliminating multiple buses to high school athletic events; freezing nonessential travel; and closing the administrative building for two weeks during the year.

But what board members will not consider is suspending new curriculum in human biology, AP calculus and pre-calculus and European history; reducing security personnel or maintenance; and eliminating late take-home buses at elementary, middle and high schools.

Officials also want to move forward with investments in credit retrieval programs in grades 7-12, starting a data warehouse project and a K-8 online learning program.

In addition, officials are seeking input on classroom sizes by offering multiple scenarios: increasing classroom sizes in grades 4-12; increasing class sizes in 7-12 and leaving elementary schools alone; raising class sizes in high school only; or leaving it alone.

The board agreed to suspend bargained classroom size limits and raise class sizes by up to three students to close the budget gap, but also asked district administrators to come up with cuts sufficient to leave classroom sizes alone.

Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson said, “We are putting more cuts than we hope are needed out for the community to decide.”

Click here to comment on this story »