Seattle Courant

Layoffs Expected at Seattle Public Schools

Seattle School Board member Mary Bass speaking during the meeting on reduction of force and other issues.
By Ryan Burr
April 24, 2009 07:04PM

“The last time I asked, we had no specific proposal for how we would reduce our workforce,” said board President Michael DeBell.

Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is authorized to issue notices of non-renewal to certificated personnel, but they must be delivered on or before May 15, which is the anniversary of employee contracts. A “reduction in force” resolution was introduced at Wednesday night’s board meeting, but can’t be voted on until the next regular meeting on May 6.

“It puts us in a difficult position,” DeBell said, referring to the continued budget deliberations in Olympia.

Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said a joint budget would likely be released by Monday or Tuesday.

The workforce reduction resolution reads that “layoffs would be primarily due to changes in enrollment and changes in program offerings and should only impact employees with narrow or specialized certification and/or endorsements.”

Enrollment figures for 2009-10 have not been finalized, and neither have the number of vacancies created by retirements, resignations, leaves, and discharges, the resolution adds.

To achieve a balanced budget during the recession, the school district has also closed school buildings, implemented a hiring freeze and utilized some reserve funds. Johnson says on her Web page for the district that operational efficiencies have been increased, such as reducing transportation costs by creating consistent bus schedules across the district.

“Our final budget will reflect decisions being made in Olympia about how the state manages the estimated $8.5-billion dollar budget deficit. I am committed to creating a balanced budget for Seattle Public Schools that continues to support our progress on key strategic priorities while protecting our district’s long-term financial health,” she says on the site.

DeBell said workforce reductions occur periodically, and he remembers that last time being six or seven years ago, when the district had a $30-million budget shortfall. The budget gap this school year had been estimated at $25 million, but until the Legislature agrees on funding, that figure won’t be known, said Seattle Public Schools spokesman David Tucker.