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South Kitsap School District to cut over 60 teaching jobs

The South Kitsap School District planned to eliminate 68 jobs – 61 of them teaching positions — for the upcoming school year. The drastic cuts were passed by the South Kitsap School Board in an effort to close a $3 million funding gap.

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PORT ORCHARD — It’s an ongoing battle to save educators in one local town that saw a 10% reduction of its teaching force in May.

classroomSouth Kitsap schools got millions of dollars in extra funds from the state so the question is, will the district restore those teaching jobs?

The district is getting closer to making a final decision. The answer will most likely frustrate a lot of students and parents at South Kitsap High.

With more than 2,100 students attending South Kitsap High, students protested the teacher cuts throughout the summer.

“We had a number of South Kitsap students who took the democratic process seriously I want to applaud that,” said superintendent Michelle Reid.

Although Superintendent Michelle Reid empathizes, the decision will ultimately boil down to classroom sizes. As of Wednesday, the largest classroom count at South Kitsap was 33.

“If the number goes up we will have to put some people back in there because we want it to be a good experience for kids,” said Reid.

But as it stands for now Reid says it does not appear the high school and any of the elementary schools are in need of more teachers.

“Our elementary classrooms are well below 30,” said Reid.

But many parents say classroom sizes are still too large despite decreasing enrollment.

“I think they are quite large, I would say we need those teachers,” said parent Brittany Anderson.

Anderson says an ideal class would have no more than 25 students.

“They would be able to do more one on one and those one or two kids wouldn’t slip through the cracks especially in the high school because they don’t get the attention they need and get lost,” said Anderson.

“The language, math, social studies like that where kids need more focus it would be better for smaller class sizes,” said parent Monique Terry.

The district says they are considering rehiring teachers for the junior high schools. Take for example Cedar Heights Junior High. It is dealing with overcrowding with several classes packed with up to 40 students.

“It is frustrating you would think these teachers would be saved and to now know they might not it is like they are making excuses,” said Terry.

South Kitsap High does not have its final enrollment numbers so if class sizes go up the district says they will weigh that in their final decision expected in August.

The school system cut 68 full time positions. Out of 58 teachers who lost their jobs, 41 of them have been rehired due to other teachers retiring.

The Legislature recently passed an additional $1 billion for education. South Kitsap’s piece of the pie is $4.5 million.

PORT ORCHARD — Plagued by a budget shortfall, the South Kitsap School District cut 10 percent of its teaching force earlier this year.

classroomThe district recently learned they will be receiving $4.5 million from the state — money that many are now hoping will restore the jobs.

In May, the district said the only way to save the teaching jobs was if lawmakers in Olympia passed an additional $1 billion for education.

The Legislature did just that — and South Kitsap’s piece of the pie is $ 4.5 million. But as of Thursday night, there were no promises of using any of that money to save jobs.

Sixty-eight full-time positions, including 61 teaching positions, were slashed in the district. Bev Cheney, the former interim superintendent, said earlier that the eliminated jobs could be restored if lawmakers gave them more money.

“They are not giving us $4.5 million and telling us, ‘Do what you like with that.’ They have specific purposes in mind,” said Michelle Reid,  South Kitsap School District’s new superintendent.

Reid said the district does have some discretion in use of the money, but, with 125 fewer students enrolling this year compared to last year, Reid said they have to do the math.

“Our enrollment has been declining; we have fewer students, we need fewer teachers,” said Reid.

“To me, it’s a letdown; they are not going through with what they said,” said Gabrielle Wagner.

Wagner spent much of the summer leading South Kitsap High School students in their protest against the teaching cuts.  She and others went as far as lobbying lawmakers, knowing it was their only hope.

“Now that we got the word out to Olympia and we got the money, I don’t see why there is not something there to fix it,” said Wagner.

“What we don’t want to do is behave simply emotionally,” said Reid.

The school board will have the final say and the issue will be discussed at next Wednesday’s school board meeting.

“We have a few more weeks to be thoughtful and we are going to bring more data back to the board next week on class sizes,” said Reid.

The president of the teacher’s union, Judy Arbogast, says they will be paying close attention to the same data. Despite decreased enrollment, the union says, many classes are still too large.

“Education is not education anymore, it’s all about the money,” said Wagner.

Wagner has since graduated from South Kitsap High, one of the largest schools in Washington.

The high school lost 17 teaching positions. Although the cuts remain for now, the superintendent says it could change since it all depends on what they find out about class sizes. They are researching the numbers and will have a better idea of how to move forward in several weeks.

classroomPort Orchard – The South Kitsap School District is receiving $4.5 million from the state but says it is too early to determine if any of that money will be used to save jobs. In May the district decided to cut 68 full time positions including 61 teaching positions.

The teacher’s union said that accounted for 10% of its teaching force.

On Thursday, Superintendent Michelle Reid told Q13 Fox News they cannot make an emotional decision but have to look at the data before reinstating any of the eliminated positions. She says student enrollment is down previous to last year. She says class enrollment will play a pivotal role in the final decision.

Teacher’s union says despite declining enrollment the district struggles with overcrowded classrooms. The group is hoping the district will use the extra funds to save the eliminated positions.

The district says the state allocated the $4.5 million for specific purposes. The superintendent hopes to have a final decision in the next several weeks. The legislature approved an additional $1 billion for K-12 education in a last minute budge agreement.

CLASSROOMThe State Legislature passed a two-year, $33.6 billion dollar operating budget over the weekend and that takes the heat off some local school districts.

According to the Kitsap Sun, North and South Kitsap School Districts are now looking to restore some teaching position that were previously on the chopping block.

Access to free, all-day kindergarten will also be restored, according to the paper.

Each district will receive additional money for transportation, school supplies and building utilities with the $1 billion dollars in new money for K-12th grade education.

You can read more about this story here.

PORT ORCHARD — School employees across the state could pay the price if the legislature doesn’t pass a budget.

Their July and August paychecks could be held up and the news is even worse for those in South Kitsap where layoffs are already coming. There’s even talk of a potential strike.

“We are going to have challenges making payroll,” said South Kitsap School District Interim Superintendent Beverly Cheney. “We will have to indeed borrow funds to make payroll in July.”

Budget Stalemate Threatens Teacher PayBut South Kitsap isn’t alone, nearly 1/3 of districts across Washington are facing the same crisis.

“There’s about over 110 school districts that don’t have the cash reserves to cover their payroll,” said Randy Dorn, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “That becomes a major issue.”

It’s all because lawmakers in Olympia haven’t been able to agree on a budget and the July 1st deadline is only weeks away.

“Basically it takes us about $6.2Million to make payroll each month, and at this point in time we’ve got about half of that in cash flow,” said Cheney.

But South Kitsap is facing even bigger problems. The district said it needs to cut 61 teaching positions to stay in the black.

It’s a double whammy for educators in the west sound.

“It’s very disheartening because I see these people that work so hard and I’m thinking, don’t these people have a clue how hard you work?” said school Volunteer Sandi McDonald.

McDonald volunteers at several schools in South Kitsap and she sees the frustration all around.

“They’re getting kicked in the gizzard,” said McDonald. “There’s nothing they can do about it.”

The union says enough is enough – they held a “no-confidence” vote against the district’s chief financial officer and have said they don’t believe teachers need to lose their jobs to balance the books.

But while everyone gets ready for summer break, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what happens next.

And the Dorn isn’t sure if there’s anything he can do to make sure everybody gets paid next month.

“We have a lot of questions on whether we have the authority to appropriate the money,” said Dorn.

The South Kitsap Education Association will either ratify a new contract with the district or consider a strike vote at their August 26th meeting.

The district says it’s confident it won’t come to a strike but if no one’s getting paid at that point, it’s hard to say which way it’ll go.

PORT ORCHARD — All the pink slips were handed out by Wednesday to dozens of South Kitsap school teachers.

classroomLast week, the school board eliminated 68 positions, 57 of that are actual teaching positions. Students are frustrated and taking their fight all the way to Olympia.

Dozens of South Kitsap High students came armed with posters, ready to lobby the school board in hopes of saving their teachers.

“We don’t look at it as money we look at is as our future,” said South Kitsap high senior Gabrielle Wagner.

So, one by one, students went up to the mic to voice their heartbreak.

“I am going to cry,” said one student addressing the board.

Because of union rules, seniority matters so most of the 57 teachers laid off were younger educators

South Kitsap High School alone is losing 17 teachers. It is already the largest high school in Washington with 2,100 students.

“What this will do is increase class sizes across the district,” said South Kitsap Education Association President Judy Arbogast.

Many are wondering could a recent levy increasing property taxes save the day. It is estimated to raise $2 million next year for the school system.

“It’s going right back into our instructional programs and you know the operations of our district,” said Interim Superintendent Bev Cheney.

Cheney says they’ve dipped into their reserves for too long. They’ve cut everything else but teachers until now.

“This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life, we have nowhere else to go,” said Cheney.

The pink slips are a done deal unless lawmakers step in.

During the meeting, one school board member pointed the finger at lawmakers who have yet to approve a budget expected to pump more than $1 billion into K-12 education. Wagner doesn’t need a reminder to reach out to Olympia.

“We are emailing the higher-ups over there and sending them messages and getting the word out this is going to affect us.

“I apologize for the state of Washington we ask you all to be accountable and the legislature is not being accountable that is not acceptable,” said State Rep. Jan Angel.

Angel says the legislature will meet June 3 and she promises to push for education funding.

There was some speculation in the schools that some of the top administrators, including the interim superintendent, had recently received a pay increase. Q13 Fox News checked in and found no bump in pay in the last five years.

Students say they will hold another protest  next week.

Local News

Area school district faces dozens of teacher cuts

KITSAP COUNTY — South Kitsap School District will eliminate 68 jobs – 61 of them teaching positions — for the upcoming school year, the Kitsap Sun reported Thursday.

The drastic cuts were passed by the South Kitsap School Board Wednesday night in an effort to close a $3 million funding gap. According to the Sun, the jobs could be saved if the Legislature approves a budget bump. However, that help may never arrive, and officials weren’t willing to count on it.

SchoolsThe school district has avoided layoffs in recent years by drastically cutting programs outside the classroom, backfilling teaching positions with local levy dollars and dipping into coffers. But cost of supplies has continued to climb and enrollment has dropped significantly, leading to significant funding problems.

“We are at the most difficult point this district has ever been in its lifetime,” School Board Member Chris Lemke said.

School Board Member Kathryn Simpson told the Sun that the cuts were extremely frustrating, considering the State Supreme Court recently mandated more funding go to public schools.

“The state has talked and talked and talked about the McCleary decision, and we haven’t seen a freakin’ dime,” Simpson said.

Class size has increased by an average of two students per class in the past two years in South Kitsap School District. The number is expected to jump again if the cuts move forward, officials said.