18 teaching jobs slashed

Early budget information shows 18 teaching positions will be cut as Oak Harbor School District marches toward its goal of cutting $3.5 million from next year’s budget.

Information released at a Monday evening school board workshop shows the school district has made nearly $2.3 million worth of cuts to administration, teaching and support positions.

The axe could still fall on other jobs as the district has been aiming at a goal of $3.5 million worth of cuts.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said he doesn’t know yet whether there will be further cuts. He needs final funding information from the state Legislature before moving forward with the budget process. State funding comprises approximately 77 percent of the school district’s budget.

The list of jobs cut to date includes 18 certificated teachers, two library instructional assistants, two school secretaries, a custodial supervisor, two custodians and one elementary school principal.

Many of those eliminated positions come from Clover Valley Elementary School, which is being shuttered due to declining enrollment.

Schulte said the reductions to certificated staff can be accomplished through attrition. He said there are normally 40 to 50 teaching vacancies in the school district every year.

As for the support staff, he wasn’t sure yet whether there will be layoffs. He said that depends on the vacancies that open up and whether there is a match available to move into a vacant position.

Linda Preder, co-president of the union that represents support staff such as secretaries and bus drivers, said she was concerned that the classified staff will bear the brunt of the reductions.

The union contract expires Aug. 31; however, Preder said negotiations are on hold until the state budget situation becomes more clear.

The shortfall stems from several factors. School district enrollment has declined for years and that translates into less funding from the state while school officials are also dealing with a depleted fund balance and increased employee costs.

Schulte said the district’s funding problem is not unique to Oak Harbor.

“I think it’s similar to what every other school district is going through,” Schulte said. “Every school district has a funding problem because the Legislature doesn’t fully fund basic education.”

While the school district cuts some positions, the remaining staff will still get a raise next year. A 3.7 percent cost of living increase for school employees is being written into the budget.

School board members questioned staff about various aspects of the budget document during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting in front of a crowd that included union representatives and school administrators. Questions ranged from how the cuts would affect the classroom to how the loss of administrative staff would affect the district.

In addition to cutting positions, school officials are looking to eliminate the “school of choice” transportation at Oak Harbor Elementary to save $100,000. In addition, it looks like there will be a $20,000 cut to activities and athletics; $35,000 savings in utilities; a $25,000 cut to school district travel; along with other reductions to building budgets and committees.

The school district is currently advertising the assistant superintendent position held by David Peterson who is resigning to become superintendent of the North Mason School District.

According to information provided by the school district, $154,457 worth of the cuts come from administration.

The communications director is the newest administrative position, but it will remain. Schulte said the district’s strategic plan dictates that there be a fully-funded communications position. He added the positive feedback he’s received about the communications director, Joe Hunt, makes the position worthwhile.

The school board didn’t make any decisions Monday.

The next step for the school district is to see how the state will fund local schools. It won’t be a long wait as the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn this week.

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