BISD superintendent: Budget cuts a ‘hair trim’

The Bainbridge Island School District is looking at reducing hours for some employees to help deal with a $3 million budget shortage.

Based on current reduced enrollment, projected decreased enrollment,and increased 2023-24 expenses, the BISD on April 27 approved a reduction of 11.92 full-time equivalent jobs. But rather than cutting positions, it is cutting hours.

Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen emphasized that the district is doing everything possible to minimize the impact of the RIF and said the cuts were more of “a hair trim” from departments around the district to avoid deeper cuts.

BISD Human Resources director Nathan Fitzpatrick told the school board that authorizes Bang-Knudsen to make staffing adjustments. Fitzpatrick could not specify where the cuts would occur because state law requires that reduction in force notifications be provided to affected certificated staff for the following school year on or before May 15.

BISD expects 3,392 students for next year, a decrease of 70 students, and increased costs so more funds are needed to maintain staffing, programs and service levels.

More cuts could be coming. “Reductions of classified staff may be finalized at a later date. A separate recommendation regarding these reductions may be presented to the board in June,” Fitzpatrick said.

School board member Robert Cromwell asked how the cuts would impact the district.

Kelly Pearson, director of Business and Finance, said the 0.1 FTE cut to special education represents a 12% reduction in staffing at the 9-12 grade level for certificated staffing, which has six FTEs. That decrease is related to caseload numbers.

Cromwell also asked for clarification on the 1.1 FTE reduction to the Career Technical Education program.

Pearson said those reductions are fractional and driven by student requests for classes. There may be a situation where some are teaching over their 1.0 FTE contract to meet student course requests. Current requests for 2023-24 may determine that the additional 1.2 FTE is not needed for next year.

“It does not result in a RIF for the actual teacher, but a reduction in the overall program based on student requests, which will result in one or two classes that will not be offered on the high school schedule,” Pearson said.

The 2023-24 Highly Capable program will be staffed as follows: .3 FTE at Blakely Elementary, .3 at Ordway, .2 at Odyssey, and .2 at Sakai Intermediate.

The cuts will affect certificated staff, including teachers, librarians and other others. The board approved the following reductions: Elementary 1.5, Social Studies 1.3, Science 1.2, Special Education 1.0, Special Services Coordinator 1.0, English/Language Arts 0.9, Library 0.75, Music 0.67, CTE — Business 0.6, Mosaic 0.5, Math 0.4, Occupational Therapist 0.4, World Language Spanish 0.4, Highly Capable 0.3, CTE — Math 0.2, Eagle Harbor High School Contract Studies 0.2, Health/PE 0.2, Art 0.1, CTE — Family and Consumer Sciences 0.1, CTE — Film Studies 0.1, CTE — Health 0.1

“If you look at what some other districts have done, they’ve actually eliminated whole programs. That was not our approach. We have trimmed a little bit off the edges, while still trying to maintain support services in every central area.”

The process is a reminder of the problematic choices school districts face around the state. Here, the district is balancing educating fewer students with a student-driven schedule, “which means we honor the choices they sign up for, and that can result in some differences in how we staff,” Bang-Knudsen said.