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South Whidbey School District continues to cut jobs

More layoff notices were sent out to South Whidbey School District staff last week — this time to classified employees.

The list includes custodians, secretaries and para-educators who work with special education students.

Receiving reduction-in-force notices were para-educators Traci Bergsma, Tasha Blasko, Debbie Hoch, Mandy Jones, Tiffany White and Angelique Cooper.

Also terminated were secretary Patricia Shults, technical support staffer Kimberly Cerra and custodians Jesse Edwards, Leo Langer and Kelly Schmidt.

The reason for the ongoing budget crisis is simple: fewer students in South End classrooms.

During the past year, the decline in enrollment has been drastic, and the district expects to lose 120 students next year.

The district estimates combined enrollment for both the middle and high schools to drop from 939 this year to approximately 803 by 2012. Those numbers convinced the school board to close the 75-year-old middle school campus near downtown Langley and transfer operations to the high school.

The school district gets roughly $5,400 per student from the state. On enrollment alone, South Whidbey will see $646,000 fewer dollars next year.

Other factors creating headaches for the school board and administrators include the Legislature’s decision to transfer Initiative 728 money — passed by voters as a classroom size-reduction measure 10 years ago — to the state’s general fund. In 2008, the district received almost $800,000, but next year it will get zero I-728 money.

One result is that average class size at the elementary school will increase from 26 to 27 in 2010-11, since there will be three to four fewer teachers available.

Larger classes means fewer teachers are needed.

In May, termination letters were sent to 22 certificated school district employees, including teachers, librarians and counselors.

Elementary school staff laid off included Diane Burgess, Emily Czerwonka, Jennifer Gandarias, John LaVassar, Katharine Pfeiffer and Caryn Ploof. Middle school staff includes Nels Bergquist, Heather Dubendorf, Louise Fiori and Jessica Foley. At the high school were Jeffrey Felgar, Linda Good, Jeffrey Greene, Mark Hodson, Betsy Hofius, Steve Jones, Chloe Karl, Carrie Whitney and Leslie Woods. Whidbey Island Academy teachers PattiJo Craig and Sharla Matthews are on the RIF list as well.

A few staff members will be offered half-time positions with pro-rated benefits and there is the chance that others will be offered jobs at reduced salaries.

Further cuts in the budget are expected as the district tightens its belt.

At South Whidbey Elementary School, the Friendship Group and Orca Kids programs will be cut and kindergarten classes combined.

At Langley Middle School, arts and drama elective classes will be cut, the seventh- and eighth-grade bands will be combined and physical education class sizes will increase.

At the high school, shop classes will be curtailed, foreign language offerings reduced, the wind ensemble and symphony programs combined, studio art and English advanced placement classes dropped and the resource math class eliminated.

The number of students in any given class will increase: from 23 to 27 at the elementary school; 26 to 29 at the middle school; and 28 to 29 at the high school.

Every high school and middle school coach will take an 11-percent cut in their stipends, resulting in savings of $50,000.

Even with those savings however, the district is still $35,000 short of reaching its goal, so work on the budget will continue through the summer months.

District Superintendent Fred McCarthy said the personnel cuts are an unfortunate by-product of the budget crisis. He added that the bond issue on the Nov. 2 ballot was fashioned to provide the funding to give the restructuring plan a good chance of being passed by the electorate.

The next regular school board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 at the elementary school community room on Maxwelton Road in Langley.

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