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Fraser: Student-teacher ratio won’t be good after latest round of cuts

POULSBO — North Kitsap Education Association President Chris Fraser believes the student-teacher ratio will exceed recommended levels in the 2013-14 school year after 27.3 jobs were cut by the district May 9.

Teachers filling 8.6 FTE positions in the North Kitsap School District received pink slips May 10. The other positions are being vacated by retirements or resignations and will not be filled.

Fraser believes some of the teachers that received  reduction-in-force, or RIF, notices, will be reinstated.

“I firmly believe we will have more people hired next fall,” Fraser said.

The North Kitsap School Board cut the teaching jobs to save approximately $2.1 million, according to Superintendent Patty Page. The district is facing an approximate $3 million deficit for the 2013-14 budget, caused by declines in enrollment and in state and federal funding.

Unless the school district receives more funding to bring back some of those positions, none will be filled next year.

“This is a cut-to-the-bone approach,” Fraser said.

The cuts came less than a week before the May 15 deadline to issue RIF notices to teachers. The board is required by law to hand out RIF notices by that date.

Staff receiving RIF notices this year were expected to be given them May 10, according to Assistant Superintendent Chris Willits.

The board bases its staffing decisions on what it knows about the next year’s budget. School board president Dan Weedin said the numbers the board looks at in May usually change.

“We are required to make staffing decisions with a crystal ball,” he said.

All certificated employees who receive a RIF notice, or whose contract is adversely affected as a result of those notices, are placed in an employment pool to be considered for recall, according to the district’s bargaining agreement. If a job opens up for anyone in the pool that qualifies, they can be rehired. If a job opens that more than one person qualifies for, the person with most seniority is offered first, the agreement states.

It’s not easy to be in the position of a teacher being rehired; a kindergarten teacher, for example, Fraser said.

“Can you imagine … all that got packed up and put in a garage … has to all be moved back in before school starts,” she said.

Student-teacher ratios will increase as a result of the staffing cuts, but “we cannot continue to operate this way,” Page said of the district’s financial responsibility. According to the proposed education program for 2013-14, presented to the board May 16, the equivalent of 10.8 positions were cut from high schools, 7.8 from elementary schools, 4.2 from support staff, 2.5 from special education, and two from middle schools.

The district has 354.30 certified employees this year, according to district documents.

How staffing looks at each school is based on decisions made at the building level.

For now, Fraser said the biggest uncertainty is state funding, whether it will increase, and how much. She expects there to be cuts to classified staff, too.

 

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