Coupeville cuts teachers, other jobs

Coupeville High School students won’t be learning in local businesses next year, and preschool kids won’t have any help getting ready for elementary school.

That’s part of the impact from the school board’s reluctant decision to cut staff and programs to make up a budget shortfall.

During a special meeting Wednesday evening, the five-member board unanimously voted to cut 4.5 teachers, cut a career/technical educator position, six para-educators and the parent/child home program. The school district is also reducing its director of student learning position to half-time.

Bill Myhr, superintendent of schools, said the district needed to make approximately $153,000 in cuts to balance its $10 million budget.

The school district didn’t have its final financial support figures from the state, but faced a May 15 deadline to notify staff of possible layoffs.

“It would sure be great to have more information to take action this time,” said school board member Don Sherman. The state information is expected by May 18.

Myhr said attrition won’t account for all of the cut positions so layoffs are necessary.

Declining enrollment, increasing employee costs, and a convoluted state funding system contributed to the budget problem in Coupeville.

The school district had fewer students than expected this school year. Officials budgeted for 1,099 full-time equivalent students, however, 1,086 attended. Officials are budgeting for 1,052 students next year.

The school district receives money from the state based on the number of students enrolled.

As the district cuts some staff, it will have to give the remaining staff a raise. The state mandated a 3.7 percent cost of living increase for school employees, however it only provided money for staff directly paid by state dollars.

The school district currently has 11 teachers and 18 support staff who are paid by other funding sources such as local levy dollars. The school district has to find ways to pay for employees funded from non-state sources.

Another factor affecting school budgets is the Running Start program, which allows high school students to take community college courses. There are approximately 25 students in Running Start, which is more than officials anticipated. The state allocation for Running Start students is funneled to the community college.

The cuts in staff mean there will be cuts in programs. Axing the career and technical educator will result in eliminating the high school internship program which allowed students to intern at businesses, the hospital and state parks.

Myhr said that staff had to make decisions that protected “core programs” that help meet requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. The CTE position will be eliminated through attrition.

Board member Kathleen Anderson said she was concerned that cutting the CTE could send more students into Running Start.

“We may lose more kids there because there is nothing for them to take,” Anderson said.

The parent/child home partnership is also being cut. That program helped families prepare their preschoolers for the rigors of elementary school. However, Myhr said the program served only 14 families this year and it fell out of the boundary of the K-12 program.

The six para-professional positions will be eliminated based on seniority.

Glenda Merwine, director of student learning, is retiring at the end of the school year. Her position will be reduced to a half time position. There is talk of having Merwine return to fill the position, but Myhr said no decision has been made yet.

Coupeville isn’t the only school district coping with budget problems. The Oak Harbor School District recently slashed 18 teaching positions in an effort to balance its budget. The Oak Harbor School Board will meet Monday to discuss layoffs for classified personnel.

The school district has until Aug. 1 to approve a final balanced budget.

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