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School district issues layoff notices to seven teachers and employees

In what superintendent Michael Soltman called a process filled with angst and sadness, the Vashon School District issued layoff notices to seven teachers and district employees on Friday.

The staff reductions come as the district grapples with anticipated state budget cuts, adding to a budget shortfall for the 2011-12 academic year currently estimated at $850,000.

In addition to reducing the number of employees, the district plans to enroll at least 40 new off-Island students next year and is considering a wide range of program cuts.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Vashon Schools Foundation recently kicked off its campaign to raise $550,000 from the community and ease the impact of the state cuts.

Last week's notices included laying off one of Chautauqua's multi-age classroom teachers and reducing its music and PE teachers to half time. At McMurray, the Response to Intervention support position was reduced to half time and two teachers were told their hours will be reduced. One of two counselors at Vashon High School was also told she'd be reduced to half time.

Four other teachers who were scheduled to retire this year will not be replaced, Soltman said. The same is true for the district-wide nurse, a position he said will be replaced by a contracted nurse.

“It won't be the some level of nursing service we have (now),” he said.

On Thursday, the school district will hold a community meeting to discuss its budget situation and gather feedback on a detailed list of potential program reductions that was released earlier this month. Possible cuts include reducing custodial and maintenance staff at the district and eliminating or reducing a range of elective options at McMurray and VHS.

Soltman said that he will consider feedback gathered at Thursday's community meeting, the third such meeting about budget cuts, as he works to make a budget recommendation to the school board in a few weeks, after the state Legislature issues its final budget.

“I want to have a conversation with the community where we can clearly decide what the nature of reductions might be and hear concerns, ideas and input,” he said.

Soltman emphasized that the cuts currently on the table are based on a worst-case budget scenario and expressed frustration that the district is forced to make decisions while waiting for the Legislature to finalize its budget, which includes funding for public education.

“It is very frustrating that we have to impact teachers based on estimates rather than reality,” he said. “It puts us in a very difficult position.”

Soltman remains hopeful, however, that the the district will ultimately be able to restore all or most staff and program cuts, as it did last year thanks largely to funds raised by the community.

The Vashon Schools Foundation, which officially kicked off its campaign last week, has so far raised about $160,000. What the foundation brings in, Soltman said, will be crucial to the district sustaining its programs.

“I think that in order for us to have the program that we want in our school district … everybody has to be in at whatever level they can meaningfully be in the fundraising campaign,” he said. “No less than 100 percent of our families need to give whatever they can give to be sure we can provide the eduction we all value.”

The community meeting to discuss potential program cuts at Vashon Island School District will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the McMurray Middle School library.

 

Community Events, April 2014

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