The Bainbridge Island School Board voted unanimously last week to cut more than 14 teaching positions — including four full-time elementary teachers and one full-time secondary teacher position — to close a critical budget gap in the coming school year.
Members of the board said the decision was an unfortunate but necessary step toward bridging the estimated $2.1 million district budget deficit.
“I hate this part of this job,” Board Director Mike Spence said before the vote.
Budget woes have plagued the district since February when Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen announced that the school district will need to make budget cuts to the tune of between $2.1 million and $3.2 million. That figure settled at $2.1 million in March when Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law legislation allowing schools to continue collecting levy funds at their current rates.
With a rapidly approaching May 12 deadline to send out “Reduction In Force” notices to affected staff, the board was pressed to come to a decision on the fate of the teaching staff at its last meeting.
Board members reluctantly approved a motion to cut the equivalent of 14.535 full-time positions. The reduction figures are based on full-time equivalency and 24 different certificated titles were outlined to bear the weight of the reductions. Affected jobs include art, band, English, French, Spanish and math teachers, building administrators, nurses, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists.
Among the hardest hit by the reductions in force are elementary teachers; four full-time equivalent positions will be removed, followed by instructional coaches and secondary teachers, who will be reduced by 1.64 and 1 FTE, respectively.
School Board President Sheila Jakubik took a moment to thank those involved in drafting the proposed cuts for their work to ensure that staff would be retained wherever possible via transfers and retirements.
Jakubik’s comments were also echoed by Board Director Tim Kinkead, who also took a moment to thank those who were sacrificing their hours to ease the sting of cuts for other staff.
“Thanks also needs to go to the people who are switching their jobs, to help protect their peers’ positions as well,” Kinkead said.
Proposed reductions for district classified staff will be presented to the board at a later date.
The deadline for the district to notify classified staff is July 31, but district administrators said they will be working hard to make sure employees are notified as early as possible.
“People deserve to know,” Spence said, emphasizing the need to get the RIF notifications sent out as soon as possible.
Officials said that they hope to send the notices out to classified workers by the end of June.
In a February letter to district staff and families announcing the need for the cuts, Bang-Knudsen proposed two options for meeting the deficit. Option One was the traditional method of staffing to enrollment and general program reductions. Bang-Knudsen’s Option Two proposed the closure of the Commodore Building and the continuation of some of its programs elsewhere throughout the district.
District officials drew harsh criticism from the parents of children enrolled in the Options Program, however, and Bang-Knudsen later recommended postponing the examination of a possible Commodore closure until the 2018-2019 school year.