28 will get pink slips at North Kitsap School Distirct

POULSBO - Unless North Kitsap School Board members can come up with alternatives, the 2011-12 school year will begin with 28 fewer certified staff members.

The school board unanimously passed a resolution Thursday night to issue reduction-in-force slips to 28 staff members. Of the 28, administration suggested cutting 10 full-time equivalent positions (FTE) from elementary schools, 13 from secondary schools and five specialists.

About 17 of these positions will be staff members that have either agreed to take a leave of absence, resign or retire - seven from the secondary level and 10 from the primary level.

The school board was required to make a decision on RIF slips by May 15, the deadline for school districts in Washington.

With the 28 positions eliminated, the district will still be about $2,580,000 short of the 5 percent reserve fund goal. The board of directors indicated meeting that reserve is not their top priority, but to meet even a 3 percent fund reserve goal will require approximately $1,460,000 in additional cuts.

Board member Tom Anderson said the board has two goals: the first is to keep class sizes small; the second, to meet a 5 percent reserve fund goal. Since he became a board member, he said the district has never met its goal of reducing class sizes, but always met its reserve fund goal.

District administration released a list of possible cuts along with the 28 staff, that could be made in order to reach a 3 percent fund balance reserve. This list included everything from delaying turf replacement to reducing a district office administrator. Superintendent Richard Jones made it clear at the meeting the list consisted of "considerations." The full list as well as budget estimates and staffing cuts can be seen here.

The need to cut 28 staff members comes from a reduction of state and federal funding for K-4 class-size reduction and a loss of enrollment in the 2010-11 year, which is expected to continue.

Chris Fraser, president of the North Kitsap Education Association, encouraged the board to eliminate no more than 28 positions. There is plenty of "stuff" that could be cut before staff, she said.

Poulsbo Middle School Agate teacher Janet Kragen expressed concern a loss of staff would create unorganized schools. After describing her appreciation for the job the board of directors is doing, she said reorganizing classes causes problems and starting a new school year can be tough enough on students.

The decision was not popular, even among the board of directors.

"I don't like doing this," board president Val Torrens said. "I really, really don't like doing this." Because the state Legislature has not completed its cuts, the school board does not know if more cuts are coming, Torrens said.

The board of directors will continue to work on the budget, which finance director Chris Hatch recommended should be finalized by about mid-June.

"For all those people that will lose their jobs ... I'm sorry," board member Dan Weedin said.

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