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Ax falls on Oak Harbor school jobs

When it comes to next year’s budget, Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte isn’t doing any sugarcoating. On Tuesday, the school board members gave their solemn nod of approval to a staff reduction plan that Schulte said will put the district in a compromising situation.

“We are well beyond the stage where we can expect services to remain at the same level with fewer people or less time to complete needed tasks,” Schulte wrote in a report. “In combination with prior reductions, we will be jeopardizing everything from student learning to school cleanliness to grounds appearance to facility and equipment maintenance. ... Likewise, we are concerned about the adverse effects on students of the larger class sizes, loss of remedial help and tutoring, outdated textbooks, inadequate supplies and materials and less frequent cleaning. And we are concerned that remaining staff will be frustrated and dissatisfied at their inability to complete necessary tasks and activities without the needed time, materials, and resources. Even as we take the fiscally necessary actions to protect the district’s financial solvency, we understand that there is nevertheless a high cost to students, staff, and the long-term viability of district programs, facilities, and resources.”

After analyzing their finances, the board members determined that they’d need to eliminate one administrative position, 12 teaching positions and 16 classified positions. The board was able to satisfy that quota through a combination of multiple retirements and resignations and by laying off one administrator and 16 classified employees.

According to Human Resources Director Kurt Schonberg, last week supervisors met one on one with the laid off employees to explain the decisions. However, because of the large turnover, some teaching positions actually opened up, and the laid off employees, and those whose positions were eliminated, will be able to apply for them. The positions began being advertised June 2.

“Needless to say this has not been an easy process for staff, but it is necessary,” Schonberg said.

Schulte drew attention to the fact that classified administrator Bill Armbrust, the director of maintenance and grounds, had been laid off. He said that loss will cause the remaining administrators to take on extra duties and assignments and will hinder the district’s ability to complete and take on new projects.

“I’m usually a positive person, but there’s nothing good about this,” board member Peter Hunt said, regarding all of the cuts.

The Legislature’s budget, announced last week, calls for a 1.9 percent pay cut among all certified and classified staff members and mandates that administrators take 3 percent cuts. However, Schulte said that district officials hadn’t yet had time to assess how those measures will affect the situation.

Last week, the Coupeville School District sent out 10 reduction-in-force notices to part-time and full-time employees, but Superintendent Patty Page said she was hopeful that the district would be able to hire some of those positions back.

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