North Kitsap School Board holds off on pink slips for 38 employees; next meeting May 5

POULSBO — The North Kitsap School Board on Thursday unanimously rejected a resolution to issue reduction-in-force notices to 38 certified employees.

District staff members filled the meeting room to capacity, forcing many into the halls of the administrative building to hear the decision.

The school board will meet May 5, 6 p.m., to discuss its next move. A decision to issue reduction-in-force notices must be made by May 15, the deadline for school districts in Washington. If 38 staff members are issued RIF notices, it does not mean some or all will not return next year. But if the board does not issue RIF notices by May 15, it will be forced to find alternative ways to reduce the budget.

"This hurts us very much to even be talking about this," school board director Dan Weedin said during the meeting. "This is a hard game no matter what."

The school board meets in the board room at Student Support Services, 18360 Caldart Ave. NE, Poulsbo. The meeting is open to the public.

The need to make cuts follows an unforeseen drop in enrollment, state and federal cuts to K-4 enhancement funding, and a predicted enrollment drop for the 2011-12 school year.

School board director Tom Anderson gave the analogy of a sinking ship, noting it has become cliche. Instead of reducing district staff by 10 percent, however, he said the board should think about non-person cuts.

"We are going to throw 10 percent overboard and come back and pick most of you," Anderson said. "This is provided we get our sinking ship fixed. The problem is, we would otherwise have to throw baggage overboard, but that's what I haven't seen in this proposal ... baggage."

The board agreed to begin meeting constantly up through May 12 to come up with a new resolution before the deadline.

More than 16 spoke during the meeting. Though it was understood the board was in a tough decision, many felt cutting staff was not the way to go.

"This is not a way to balance funds," said Chris Fraser, president of the North Kitsap Educators Association. "This proposal does not take into account any cuts that could be made besides those that provide services to students day in and day out."

— EARLIER STORY: As North Kitsap School District officials planned for the 2010-11 school year, unseen forces were at work, converging into a perfect storm that administrators say they didn't see coming.

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