Teachers getting unwelcome news

BUDGET VICTIMS: Olympia informing 48 teachers they might lose jobs come fall, but district says majority won’t

May 10, 2011 

The Olympia School District is notifying 48 teachers this week that they might not have jobs in the fall, as it works to close a $2.3 million deficit.

Of course, the real number of teachers who could lose their jobs – and the actual amount of the deficit – depends largely on how things play out in the state Legislature’s special session, and how many teachers decide to retire, resign or take a leave of absence during next school year.

“The majority of those folks will be offered their jobs back,” said district spokesman Peter Rex.

So far, 27 teachers have indicated they don’t plan to work next year. The district plans to basically leave 40 positions vacant to balance its budget. Unless there’s more attrition, about 13 teachers will lose their positions, Rex said.

For now, the district is working on a budget based on the state House of Representatives’ proposed cuts in education, according to assistant superintendent Jennifer Priddy.

“We’re planning on a kind of a worst-case scenario, and we’re hoping the Legislature won’t cut as deeply as we are anticipating,” she said.

By law, districts have to give pink slips – known as Reduction in Force notices – by May 15.

North Thurston Public Schools issued six RIF notices among its teaching staff, said district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve.

All of the teachers are at the elementary school level, and could likely be brought back if enrollment counts continue to climb in the district, she said.

The Tumwater School District, which went through a RIF two years ago, expects to handle all of its teaching staff cuts through attrition, said assistant superintendent Bob Kuehl. The district is projecting a loss of $1.5 million in state and federal revenue that could be made up with its fund reserve, an increase in levy revenue and a variety of cuts in the district.

But officials in the three districts say it’s too early to know how many school jobs will be lost before next year. The RIF process doesn’t include classified staff workers, or administrators. It’s also complicated and based on seniority, and if enrollment is up, teachers can get their jobs back.

“There’s a ton of variables we still don’t know what the budget is going to be,” Kuehl said. “With the legislative session still going on, those are our forecasts.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433
lpemberton@theolympian.com

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