School district braces for cuts, considers fundraising plan

Vashon Island School District Superintendent Terry Lindquist, braced for state budget cuts that could cost the district as much as $850,000, has already put teachers on notice that the district will need to issue pink slips later this year.

As a result, he said, he plans to take a resolution to the school board’s April 16 meeting stating that a “reduction in force” will be necessary, he said.

The district may find ways to offset some of the cuts, expected to occur as the state grapples with a $9 billion deficit, Lindquist said. But for now, he said, a $850,000 cut appears to be a possibility.

“I’m going to operate on that assumption until I have better data,” he said.

Board member Laura Wishik, meanwhile, has put forward a plan in an effort to save some teaching positions.

At last week’s board meeting, Wishik suggested the board undertake a fundraising campaign calling on every family to contribute $150 for each child they have in Vashon’s public school system.

According to her proposal, budget cuts could mean as many as eight staff members will lose their jobs.

“I think the community, particularly the parents, really care about the staff at the school ... and that they’ll be shocked and upset when they see the number of teachers who are going to be laid off,” she said.

Wishik’s proposal, which is expected to come before the board for a second discussion at its April 16 meeting, calls for each school to recruit a team that oversees the fundraising effort for its building. A coordinator for each class would be recruited, and a plan would be devised to contact each family individually to ask them to contribute, according to her plan.

It’s up to each family to decide if they want to give, Wishik said.

“But if we don’t ask for this money, we’re essentially saying to the parents, ‘We’re not going to give you a chance to save teaching positions.’ And I think that’ll make parents angry,” she said.

“People want the opportunity to support both smaller class sizes and good teachers,” she said.

Wishik believes her plan could raise $150,000 or more, enough to retain at least two full-time positions, she said.

But some Islanders active in the PTSA question whether families — already pressed to contribute to fundraisers and shouldering higher school-related fees — can contribute more to the school district.

“We have to pay for sports and ASB and art supplies and ... PTSA. How much can you squeeze?” asked Denise Katz, who chairs the PTSA.

The PTSA, after discussing the issue at a recent meeting, decided to recommend that the district instead seek out grants and try to bring money from off-Island to support Vashon schools.

Bob Hennessey, who chairs the school board, said Wishik is attempting to confront an important issue — “that we need more revenue to come into our general fund.”

But he said it’s important to put forward a plan that allows parents who can’t afford to contribute an easy way to say no.

“We need to talk about it further,” he added.

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