The Bainbridge Island School District recently notified three teachers that their positions will be terminated as part of the effort to help the district bridge a $2.1 million budget shortfall.
The teachers who received layoff notices are: Dana Ashton, Spanish teacher at Odyssey/Mosaic; Meghan Berg, teacher at Blakely Elementary and SeoYoung Kil, math teacher at Woodward Middle School.
Five positions in all were cut. Those staff reductions include two other non-teaching, certificated staff members who were also issued reduction in force notices; a part-time librarian at Ordway Elementary and a physical therapist in the school district office.
The Bainbridge Island School Board approved the layoffs at its meeting late last week.
The relatively low number of certificated staff being terminated, district officials said, is due to the strategic use of employee retirements, leaves of absence and resignations in order to consolidate the number of terminations necessary to staff to current enrollment numbers.
Additionally, Duane Fish, principal of Bainbridge High School and Dave Shockley, principal of Commodore Options School, have both announced their resignations, effective June 30.
The teacher cuts were not a surprise to those let go. State law required the district to send out “reduction in force” notifications to all certificated staff by May 12.
The reductions in the teaching ranks will be followed by other cuts to non-certficated staff in the months to come.
The deadline to send out reduction in force notifications to district classified staff — which includes bus drivers, maintenance workers and others — is June 31.
The budget crisis has been a topic of much discussion this year among district families, administrators, staff at Bainbridge public schools and the school board since it was first announced in February by Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen.
School district officials initially predicted cuts of $2.1 million to $3.2 million would need to be made from the district’s operating budget.
In a February letter to district staff and families announcing the need for the cuts, Bang-Knudsen proposed two options for meeting the deficit. Bang-Knudsen’s Option One was the traditional method of staffing to enrollment and general program reductions, and Option Two proposed the closure of the Commodore Building and the continuation of some of its programs elsewhere throughout the district.
In the letter Bang-Knudsen pointed to three key reasons for the budget crisis. Declining student enrollment, lack of adequate state funding for educational programs and high teacher salaries were all to blame for the deficit, said the superintendent.
Bang-Knudsen and other district officials drew harsh criticism from the community and parents of children enrolled in the Options Program for Option Two. Bang-Knudsen later recommended postponing the examination of a possible Commodore closure until the 2018-2019 school year, following an examination of the Options programs.
The budget gap was lessened by the state Legislature earlier this year, as state lawmakers agreed to delay the so-called “levy cliff” that would mean a reduction in property taxes and a $358 million dollar cut to Washington schools.
The number of layoffs would have been greater, officials said, if not for the number of employees who voluntarily decided to leave their jobs. Approximately 16 teachers have decided to depart from their positions since March.
The teachers who will be resigning from their positions, retiring or taking leaves of absence are:
Karen Polinsky, language arts teacher at Bainbridge High; Ralph Burton, band teacher at Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School; David Layton, language arts teacher at BHS; Joy Best, math teacher at BHS; Kirrin Coleman, English teacher at BHS; Brittany Hillborn, PE teacher at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary; Edith Redfield, teacher at Ordway Elementary; Mary Lou Upton, teacher at Ordway Elementary; Catherine Delorey, math teacher at BHS; Jennifer Ledbetter, teacher at Blakely Elementary; Mackenzie Foley, teacher at Ordway Elementary; Seana Hruska, teacher at Ordway Elementary; Bridget Butler, ELL teacher; Elaina Weinbach, teacher at Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary; Dalanie Church, family and consumer science education teacher at Woodward Middle School and Mallory Flemister-Wilhelm, music teacher at Ordway Elementary.