KENT, Wash. -- People in Kent are so frustrated with possible staffing and program cuts at the Kent School District, many braved the cold and the rain to rally outside the superintendent’s office on Wednesday.
The Kent School Board was expected to meet in a closed executive session Wednesday night but that meeting was closed to the public.
But Wednesday night, members of the Kent Education Association -- the teachers union -- voted unanimously for a resolution calling for School District Superintendent Calvin Watts and the district's human resources officer to resign or be fired. (Resolution at bottom of story)
The closed School Board meeting was why moms, dads and students held their own meeting on the street earlier Wednesday to express their concerns over their kids’ futures.
More than a dozen lined the street in front of the Kent School District headquarters demanding the school board reconsider budget cuts that could mean shrinking staff across the district.
“Ultimately it’s the superintendent’s responsibility and it’s the board’s responsibility,” said parent Paulette Hansen.
“That scares me, we should have a plan,” said parent Kymm Calis. “We should have a unified plan.”
It’s been a wild, emotional ride for parents and students in Kent. At first the superintendent warned more than 120 full-time employees would have to be laid off in the 2018-19 school year to save money.
Then weeks later, after a public outcry, that plan was scrapped after the district said it received more financial clarity from the state. Now the district plans to eliminate 60 positions over time through attrition, by not replacing those who retire or leave the district.
But all of that comes after voters recently passed a pair of levies that funded the school district's technology and infrastructure repair projects.
“The community feels there’s been a bait and switch,” said Hansen.
“The reason I am here is because I believe something is not right,” said Calis, “Something’s fishy.”
Some parents worry programs like music and art could be on the chopping block to help the district make up for what it says is a $21 million budget shortfall through 2020.
The music program is what Kentridge High School freshman Lane Hansen hopes to use to eventually help pay for college.
“I’m starting to pick up the tuba and I’m hoping I can get a scholarship with that, but if they cut the band and music programs I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get a scholarship,” she said.
Some parents are also calling on the superintendent to resign over the financial crunch – but many are asking at least for transparency after weeks of uncertainty.
“We’re the fourth largest district in the state, we should have our stuff together, we should be able to present a united front not only with the community members but all the parents and we’re not seeing that,” said Calis.
Q13 News asked for an interview with Superintendent Calvin Watts about Wednesday’s rally and the possible job cuts those messages were not immediately returned.
Here is the resolution approved Wednesday night by members of the teachers' union.
Resolution of the Kent Education Association
Vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the Leadership of Kent School District
April 4, 2018
WHEREAS, gross budget mistakes by Kent School District (KSD) leadership left the district with a budget deficit of $5.7 million during a time of economic prosperity; and,
WHEREAS, Kent Education Association (KEA) leadership met with KSD leadership multiple times over a two-year period to warn of the impending financial crisis, only to be ignored on each occasion; and,
WHEREAS, in response to the financial crisis created by the errors of KSD leadership, 50.0 FTE teacher positions were eliminated from classrooms across the district prior to the current school year (2017-2018); and,
WHEREAS, Superintendent Watts made a promise at the KSD community meeting in April, 2017, that any further cuts “would not touch classrooms;” and,
WHEREAS, KSD leadership cut MSOC funds by 20%, which most certainly affects student learning in the classroom; and,
WHEREAS, the voters of the KSD community PASSED two levies that were supposed to enable the district to maintain the number of teachers in the classroom; and,
WHEREAS, on March 13, 2018, district leadership set in motion the Reduction in Force (RIF) process, ultimately resulting in the elimination of 60.0 further FTE’s; and,
WHEREAS, throughout the RIF process, KSD leadership: a) operated without transparency, b) failed to engage in any partnership with community leaders or KEA to address the issues even refusing to work to save one (1) job, and, c) issued confusing and contradictory communications to KEA regarding RIF numbers, process, and timeline, thereby destroying the trust and goodwill of our membership; and,
WHEREAS, the membership of the Kent Education Association has NO CONFIDENCE in the leadership provided to the District by top administrators;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Kent Education Association hereby calls for the immediate resignations or removal of Superintendent Calvin J Watts and Chief of Human Resources Moriah Martin.