Issaquah School District puts laid off teachers on recall list

May 26, 2011

By Laura Geggel

NEW — 4:05 p.m. May 26, 2011

Parents in the Issaquah School District can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Class sizes in the district will not increase next year.

The news stems from the proposed state biennial budget the state Legislature approved late Tuesday night.

After reviewing the budget for the past four months, the state House of Representatives and Senate approved a compromise budget that would lower the salaries of teachers and administrators, but would save the jobs of many district teachers.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has yet to sign the bill.

While school district administrators were waiting for the state Legislature to approve the 2011-13 budget, they had to renew teachers’ contracts by May 15. Unsure of the final budget, administrators came up with a worse-scenario plan that included layoffs for 36 teachers. The plan also axed the positions of 15 teachers who were leaving through normal attrition, bringing the total number of teacher reductions to 51.

Under the compromise budget, the district is able to place those 36 teachers on a recall list. Laid off teachers will receive a recall if there is a demand for the class they teach.

“I can only recall back folks to teaching positions that are there, where there’s an opening,” district Executive Director of Personnel Services Kathy Miyauchi said.

Staffing depends on student enrollment and registration, as well as employee shuffling within the district.

As for the teachers leaving through normal attrition, the district will replace them on an as-needed basis, Miyauchi said.

With the district recalling teachers and hiring new ones, class sizes will stay the same.

“Class sizes will not change,” Miyauchi said. “We believe that we can hold class sizes steady.”

Normally, the district has staffing squared away by the last day of school, but because the Legislature finished the state budget two months late, the district is running behind.

“We still have the goal of getting staffing done by the last day of school, but that is ambitious,” Miyauchi said. “We’re going to be working long hours. We’re going to try to get it done.”

However, staff members will work throughout the summer to complete all of the hires.

A similar situation played out in 2009, when the Legislature took longer than scheduled to complete its 2009-11 budget. In 2009, the district laid off 158 teachers, and ended up recalling all but one — a teacher administrators were able to recall the following year, Miyauchi said.

Though more teachers’ jobs are safe for next year, they are slated to receive a pay cut.

The most significant cuts affect salary apportionment and staffing ratios, Issaquah district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said. Both certified and classified staff members would experience a 1.9 percent decrease in base salary allocations, and certificated administrators would see a 3 percent decrease in base salary allocations.

The compromise also eliminates the enhancement to keep kindergarten through fourth-grade classes smaller and increases pension-rate contributions by 2 percent, Niegowski added.

Even with the kindergarten through fourth-grade cuts, the district will keep the average elementary school class size the same as this year.

The compromise budget includes $4.3 million in cuts for each of the next two years to the district.

The district is working to fill gaps with its local maintenance and operations levy. Lawmakers approved a measure to allow districts to increase the levy lid — the amount they can levy — by 4 percent, bringing Issaquah’s levy lid to 28.97 percent.

That doesn’t mean the district is able to collect more than its voters approved; the district can either collect the amount voters approved, or the amount the levy lid allows, whichever is lower.

In an email sent to staff members Thursday, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen outlined the areas where the district is cutting back.

“In fact, the increased levy dollars are significantly responsible for filling the 2011-12 budget gap,” he wrote. “Other offsetting factors include more operational efficiencies, decreased nonclassroom service levels, utilization of reserve funds, increased fees for families, reallocation of overload funding, and continued reliance on organizations such as the PTSA and Issaquah Schools Foundation to help fund critical district and school-level purchases.”

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