Staff cuts coming to balance district budget, Edmonds schools superintendent says

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    Edmonds School District Superintendent Dr. Kris McDuffy spoke to a few dozen parents, teachers and staff at a community meeting held Thursday in the library of Mountlake Terrace High School. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

    With the Edmonds School District looking at a projected $17.7 million deficit for the 2019-2020 school year, staff cuts will be part of the equation to balance the budget.

    That was one of the messages shared by district Superintendent Kris McDuffy to a few dozen attendees at a community meeting held Thursday at Mountlake Terrace High School.

    The meeting was the last of four “Conversations with Kris: A Superintendent, Budget & the Community Discussion” held during the past month at four district high schools.

    While McDuffy spent some time at the gathering sharing about long-range planning the district is doing concerning a possible move to a 6th-8th grade middle school model and possibly building one, two or three new schools in the district, most of the almost-90 minute meeting was about formalizing a 2019-2020 budget.

    The district’s current projected general fund budget expenditures for the 2019-2020 school year are $335.1 million, but district administrators want to get that to $317.4 million, creating the need to make cuts.

    “We’ve been working hard at how do we find 17.7 (million dollars in cuts) in with already a very lean budget,” McDuffy said.

    In order to balance the 2019-2020 budget, a reduction in the number of district employees is in the works.

    “Some positions are going away,” McDuffy said. “Every employee group is being impacted to some degree.”

    The district has already informed a handful of administrators in that their positions are being eliminated, primarily assistant principals at district elementary schools.

    “We had to make reductions,” McDuffy explained. “We reduced administrators at the elementary level by 8.5 (full time-equivalent) just in the last week.”

    Five of the 20 elementary schools in the district will keep their assistant principal posts, McDuffy said. “The rest are moving to a different support model.”

    Although the elimination of some teaching positions districtwide will also likely be coming, no certificated instructional staff (CIS) have received layoff notices as of yet. “Our hope is that — and actually the data pretty well bears this out if people can be patient — is that we expect to be able to absorb almost all of the potential reductions of CIS and CLS (certificated licensed staff) through attrition,” she said.

    The district sees about 145 employees retire each year, McDuffy said.

    A final Edmonds School District 2019-2020 budget will not be finalized until after the current session of the Washington State Legislature is completed. Edmonds and school districts around the state are hoping that legislators will make some additional funds available.

    While the state has increased funding to school districts, the ramifications of the 2012 McCleary decision also limited the districts’ ability to raise money through levies. McDuffy is hoping that a lift on the levy lid — under consideration in Olympia right now — will bring more revenue to the district’s budget for next year.

    “We have to plan right now for the worst-case scenario,” McDuffy said. “And then hopefully build back or find a place where we can live with.”

    “We must first wait for the Legislature to finish their business,” she added.

    — By Doug Petrowski

    5 Replies to “Staff cuts coming to balance district budget, Edmonds schools superintendent says”

    1. I have been reading about the Washington State schools financial issues for several years now. Each time I read an article, I scratch my head in complete confusion about how money for education throughout the state is ‘managed’. None of it makes a bit of sense. It appears we keep passing bills and levies to provide more and more money, yet schools continue to have financial problems. At some point, I would think taxpayers are going to just say: ‘no more money; please start managing money better and simplify what you are doing so that it makes sense to the public’. I say this as a person who supports education and does does not mind paying taxes pay for education. A huge part of my taxes goes to education yet I am not seeing the results.

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      1. Very good points. When I was a teacher in a private school we held a few classes in a hallway and a storage room, because we didn’t yet have the money for expansion. Yet we sent our students to some of the best colleges in the country. We also made a conscious decision to promote only “life sports” – ie: those that students could enjoy for life (soccer, cross-country skiing, cross-country running, basketball) and that don’t require huge budgets or large stadiums or promote elitism (we banned letter jackets).

        Quality of learning is all that matters.

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    2. Chris, I am with you a hundred percent. I remember when one of the grade schools opened in Shoreline years ago. I walked in and my mouth dropped open. Posh carpets, flags hanging (large colorful) in the halls. LOTS of flags (very expensive) I’ll bet there we’re at least 40 or more hanging walls of ceiling. I knew how expensive I saw their wholesale price at the gift show. 2 libraries. One in English one in Asian. I can go on..unbelievable cost. Later I asked if anyone ever used the Asian library.. School said no. Not sure if they still have. Bottom line, Waste of money that could have been used in other ways. So usually if it was that extravagant then, what is it like now? Then I went to a private school. Totally opposite with fabulous teachers. But very minimal buildings, decor..For what we pay..where is it going?

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    3. As a life long citizen/tax payer of the Edmonds School District, having raised my children in it and now work for it, I understand the sentiments of the first two posts. I’ll comment on one area mentioned – the art installations that some seem to think is over the top. Why should we be funding such extravagances?

      There is a state law that requires “public places” to spend 1% of their construction budget on art. As you drive by the Edmonds-Wooday campus you can see beautiful glasswork in the library windowl – that came from that budget. The carvings in Meadowdale Middle School’s main hallways, the sculptures on Meadowdale High School’s outside walkway, are other examples. Consider your home, workplace and other places you visit – do they have decor, art, visual stimuli? What would it be like to spend eight hours, five days a week in those places if there were no pleasant visual stimuli? Art, the making of it, as well as the viewing of it speaks to quality of life. Functionality is not the only consideration in building a school, church, home, or office building. From my experience as the ESD’s part-time Community Arts Program Coordinator (I am given no ESD moneys for art activities/materials), most other art installations in our Edmonds School District schools have been funded by grants from the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation or school house budgets/fundraising.

      As for other funding decisions, many are influenced by community input. How aware/concerned/committed is our community to influencing what and how our educational dollars are spent? I just came from a meeting yesterday where the Superintendent reported to us about community engagement meetings being held concerning the possible shift of 5th graders to middle school. This decision will drive construction bonds, taxes, buildings, etc in our near future. Do we build 5 more elementary schools or build one more middle school with some redesign of current middle schools to handle the growth we are seeing in the district? They held meetings in every quadrant of the district and in one meeting 15 people showed up. In another three – two of which were parents/ESD staff. You can bet when decisions are made and the bill is presented to our community that there will be a lot of squawking about the costs we will be expected to cover through taxes and bonds. NOW is the time to get involved in this decision. If you want to have know how our tax dollars are being spent and want to have a voice, and be listened to – NOW is the time to do it.

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    4. Clarification of my first posting: I believe my posting may have been misinterpreted and could spin off in an unintended direction. I am NOT suggesting the educational system is mismanaging its funds, or spending money in the wrong places. That is not the point I was trying to make.

      The point I was trying to make is that how educational monies are obtained (levies, taxes, etc.), and spent at the state and local levels appears, when you read various news media reports, to be chaotic at best. We keep collecting money at state and local levels. We appear to have meet the intent of the McCleary case and in the recent past raised pay levels for many of our educators indicating someone has money. Great news. But, then, I keep reading articles about schools potentially needing to reduce staff and most recently the need to eliminate school librarians.

      What’s wrong with this picture? The point I am trying to make is that it is not clear who is running the ship on a State level, and that there appears to be a lack of long-term and clear plans that manage money at both state and local levels with the end goal of having a healthy school system. Perhaps this is just a problem with how our educational funds are managed between the states, counties, and districts? I believe that is what Doug Petrowski is suggesting.

      The bottom line is that I suspect many taxpayers, like me, will have a hard time supporting future requests for money when it appears that no one is managing the big picture that is HOLISTIC. Again, I am not questioning how our local folks are spending their money.

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