Oak Harbor schools may cut 53 positions

The district might cut $3.8 million from the 2024-25 budget and eliminate 53 staff positions.

The Oak Harbor School District might cut $3.8 million from the 2024-25 budget and eliminate 53 staff positions, according to Chief Financial Officer Amber Porter.

As Superintendent Michelle Kuss-Cybula said during a board meeting on April 29, budget cuts are hard as they affect staff and students. However, they are necessary as the district is dealing with the end of pandemic relief funds, low enrollment levels, low fund balance and construction projects.

These cuts could mean 53 staff positions will be eliminated, affecting certificated, classified and administrative time. Of these jobs, 38 will be eliminated through attrition as those employees have announced they are retiring or resigning, Porter wrote.

All of the certificated positions involved will be eliminated through attrition. Some of the remaining certificated employees might be assigned to new roles as their current position “will not be needed,” she wrote.

Currently, 15 staff members are at risk of losing their job, but as the district receives more resignation letters, more positions may be eliminated through attrition, Porter wrote.

In the meantime, the state will provide more funding to save one or two paraeducator or secretary positions, though the district awaits guidance from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Porter said during the board meeting.

This year, the district used $1.7 million out of $7.9 million from the 2022-23 ending fund balance. To further help restore the fund balance, the district plans to replace the use of fund balance money with any resources that are available until the end of the upcoming school year, Porter said.

Since the end of 2023, Oak Harbor Public Schools has been on Northwest Educational Service District 189’s financial watchlist due to declining cash balance, joining Coupeville and 26 other districts.

ESD 189, which comprises 35 local school districts, has been keeping a particular eye on four districts that are under “binding conditions,” which means the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the service district decide how they spend their money. If such measure fails to fix the issue, a district can be dissolved.

Larry Francois, the service district’s superintendent, said Oak Harbor isn’t showing any signs that the district is headed towards binding conditions and has “high confidence” that the district is “appropriately managing” its situation.

In an email, Porter wrote that being on the list has, in fact, not affected the district as it was already monitoring its finances and is reducing its expenditures. In March, the Business Services Department received the State Auditor’s Stewardship Award for responsibly managing public funds and for writing accurate financial reports.

A draft version of the budget will be available to the public on July 10, and it will receive final approval on Aug. 26.