Forty school employees face layoffs

"As many as 40 South Whidbey School District employees' jobs depend on the outcome of the April 25 levy election.If the $3 million maintenance and operation levy fails for the second time, the school board will have no choice but to lay off teachers and support staff. The levy proposal fell 24 votes short of the 60 percent majority needed to pass in the Feb. 29 election.On Tuesday the board approved a Reduction in Force list that recommends the following personnel cuts if the levy fails:* Fifteen certificated (largely teaching) staff, saving a total of $750,000* Fifteen PSE (secretaries and paraeducators) employees, saving $180,000* Ten SEUI (bus drivers, custodians, and other support services) employees, saving $150,000By making those 40 layoffs, the school district would save $1,080,000 during the 2000-2001 school year. Levy funds provide about 18 percent of the district's income.Dr. Lisa Bjork, superintendent of schools, said teachers on the RIF list would be notified on Friday as required by their contract. But the list isn't set in concrete. Employees can appeal on the basis of seniority and job classification, for example.Board member Wendy Alexander said the process of compiling the RIF list was complex. It's not at all simple, it's not obvious, who should be on the list, she said.Jim Adsley, board president, added, It gets into (job) categories as well, it's not pure seniority.Bjork said that if the levy fails, employees on the list can appeal no later than May 15. In addition, a final list of program and staff cuts will be made and reviewed with staff and community, and final RIF letters sent out at that time.I just hope we don't have to take the next step, said board member Barbara Schneeman.Later in the week Scott Mauk, president of the South Whidbey Education Association, said in a written statement the cuts could lead to larger class sizes, radical schedule changes, loss of course offerings, contractual complications, and other damaging changes to programs and services across the board.Besides reducing staff, here are other possible cuts submitted by Dr. Bjork. The goal is to reduce spending by $1.5 million next year if the levy fails.* Textbooks -- $60,000* Supplies -- $40,000* Athletics/arts -- $300,000* Furniture -- $16,000Teachers are nervous and upset and will be hamstrung by any cuts to programs and staffing, Mauk said. The consensus among SWEA members is a levy loss would be catastrophic.To help pass the levy, Mauk said the teachers will work more closely with the Citizens Levy Committee, co-chaired by Dean Hatt and Debra Valis. The union has contributed funds to help with ads and other costs, he said.The school district did not release the names of the teachers on the Reduction in Force list. The South Whidbey Record is seeking the list through a formal public information request based on the State Open Records Act. As of press time Friday no response had been received."

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