South Kitsap Schools’ future after teacher layoffs

South Kitsap School District officials have invited parents and community members to a meeting to discuss the district’s future from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at South Kitsap High School.

The school board last week voted to lay off the equivalent of 15 teachers. The district is required under teachers’ contracts to send notices by May 15 to those whose positions are targeted for elimination. According to school board President Kathryn Simpson, the district actually will be eliminating 25 teaching positions, but some will come from attrition and retirement.

The district has cut $19 million since 2009 and faces the need to cut $6.5 million in the 2011-12 school year. Without local levy support, the district would be bankrupt, according to Terri Patton, assistant superintendent of business and support services.

South Kitsap in the past has been able to balance its shrinking budget through attrition, but enrollment — a key revenue driver — is down this school year (2010-11) by 3.22 percent, when the district had expected a decrease of 1.25 percent. In addition, federal stimulus funds that helped buoy the district through the past couple years has dried up, and the state has made drastic cuts to education.

The district learned partway through the school year (once its 2010-11 budget already had been adopted) that the state wold be cutting funding for the current year by about $2 million. This was partially offset by federal funding to save teachers’ jobs, but the net result was a loss of $890,000 in this school year.

The state Legislature has proposed deep cuts to education for the upcoming school year. The Senate version of the budget calls for a $250 million reduction to K-12 education that was not included in the House. They’ll go back to negotiations for a special session this week. For that reason, Simpson does not expect legislators representing South Kitsap to be at Wednesday’s discussion, although they were invited.

Bottom line, class sizes are going to increase. And the question parents likely will be asking — or should be asking — is what does this mean to my kid?

In addition to what the district has to say about how it will try to accommodate the loss of teachers, I wonder what plans families have for living with SKSD’s new normal.

Will you migrate to a private school? Likely that’s a factor in decreased enrollment, although I don’t have the stats at hand to prove it.

Will you give your kids a primer on how to get their questions answered, their voices heard in the crowd? Will you amp up your level of parental hovering, where schools are concerned?

One last question: Bainbridge Island has had considerable success supplementing that district’s budget through its foundation, with pledges and fundraisers.

Disclaimer: I’ve not heard anyone from South Kitsap School District raise this as a possibility. I’m just wondering if anyone out there would be willing to donate to public schools.

Just askin’.

Chris Henry, reporter

16 thoughts on “South Kitsap Schools’ future after teacher layoffs

  1. As a former employee of the South Kitsap School District whose decision to leave was partly based on the ongoing budget crisis I feel compelled to speak out. As with any job, there are ups and downs, highs and lows, but overall it was an honor and a privilege to work with the many talented and dedicated administrators, teachers, staff and most importantly kids, who make up the South Kitsap School District.

    Having worked with these people, I am not one that is lead by the nose to demonize teachers or administrators during this financial crisis, I hold the political leaders of our state who have failed so miserably at their jobs to address the funding of education accountable. But in the meantime, if the South Kitsap School District were to setup a foundation that is similar to what BI has done, I would contribute towards it until a permanent solution to fund education is found.

  2. If we were in that district and enjoyed the public schools, we’d help create and support the foundation without hesitation. With that comes accountability, as well as a high level of parental involvement.


    There was a foundation started a few years ago, I don’t know that it ever got off the ground.

    Some districts, the Vancouver School District for instance, rely heavily on their foundations for giving. I think the Propstra Aquatic Center was built with foundation gifts, with most of the funding coming from George Propstra.

  4. Karen,

    I will check on the foundation’s status and post an update. The foundation wasn’t directly connected to the district.

  5. Private foundation or PTA funding for programs and staff in public schools is certainly a very hot button topic in and around the education blog-o-sphere these past couple of weeks.

    The League of Education voters has been discussing it in detail and just in the past couple of days I read the Seattle PTA’s and PTSA’s are putting together a resolution that will be presented at the upcoming WSPTA Convention that basically states PTA’s should NOT play are role in funding staff. Here is an excerpt from one of the notices sent out to members:

    “On the agenda for this year, WSPTSA is proposing a resolution calling for PTAs not to subsidize classified or certified staff salaries. Click here to read the resolution. This will likely be a topic of hot debate. A number of Seattle PTA’s support teacher salaries in some fashion, while others may decline to for a variety of reasons.”

    Unfortunately, I cannot get the link to the actual resolution to open. Still looking for it in other venues. I will post it if I find it. I can personally see where there are benefits and pitfalls to doing it and not doing it.

    Colleen Smidt

  6. Opps, got that backwards. The State PTA has the resolution to say don’t do it, Seattle PTA’s & PTSA’s are already doing it by funding some teacher salaries in their districts. Sorry my bad.

  7. Colleen – What is the argument given against PTAs funding teachers salaries? I would guess it is seen as essentially releasing the pressure valve on potential state funding sources, taking away the urgency to resolve the education funding shortfall. Is that in the ballpark, or are there other reasons?

    Chris Henry, reporter

  8. Colleen and Chris

    I can understand why it would be (and should be) a hot issue.

    There is danger in having PTAs and foundations fund positions because “ample” funding for basic education is a state constitutional requirement. While it is great to see our communities committed to the best for our kids, allowing them them to take on that role then alleviates the state of it’s responsibility and creates a facade to the state that since we are getting by without funding for those positions then we don’t really need that funding from the state after all. Then it becomes a vicious circle of “we need it”, “No you don’t because we aren’t giving it to you and you are finding other places to get what you need”…

    In a way, it is similar to saying that since a child can get public assistance, they don’t really need that deadbeat parent to pay their child support because the child is being fed. Well, yeah, the child is getting fed through public assistance, but is that the right way to fund that child’s grocery needs if the deadbeat parent has resources?

    I would prefer our PTAs and foundations to be able to focus on helping us meet the ‘whole child’ needs of our kids, instead of filling in where the state falls short of their responsibility. Backpacks for kids is a great example. Supporting the purchase of playground equipment and field trip opportunities are other great examples. Supporting the staff through appreciation breakfasts, parent engagement opportunities, and community building. 🙂

    Then there is the whole ‘equity’ issue. Mercer Island can raise $400,000 in a day (and they did last year). South Kitsap would struggle to raise that in a year (or two). Basic education should be equitable across the state. That is a fundamental priority of our state constitution.

  9. Hey Chris and Kathryn,

    You guys are both right. Hey I just found the link to the resolution..

    Other concerns, in addition to the ones you have listed, brought up by other education groups have to do with basic liability issues. For example, recently a community foundation directly subsidized an educator salary in their district. That educator then went on to commit abuse against a student. The foundation is now on the receiving end of the legal ramifications by the district and the parents of the student involved because they paid directly for that educator.

    I agree with Kathryn, the PTA should stay out of directly funding district staff. They are not equipped for it and there is a lot of good they can still accomplish by way of improved education for kids with that same amount of money.

    On the other side, I am finally happy to see that they are educating themselves and being a little more proactive on real substantive issues and challenges facing education today. I attended the State Convention five years ago as a delegate. At that time it was not a good fit for me. The pacing of PTA, their focus and frankly too much fluff really did not appeal. In a way I should thank them for that, because it caused me to become independent by forging my own path and blazing a new trail into local parent and citizen involvement and participation in education instead of just being a follower of the same old way of doing business.

    Colleen Smidt

  10. Contesting it is essentially a political issue with a presumption of how the state would respond to it. Holding out in order to force the state to adhere is certainly one strategy, but in the end it potentially harms students and teachers during valid funding shortfalls.

    Kathryn’s analogy is poignant because education is a partnership and the state is not our parent. In custody and child support battles, the children can end up suffering most whilst feuding parents refuse to give ground. Here, they and teachers risk starvation and neglect when money doesn’t magically appear just because there’s a game of chicken underway.

    No one likes the status of the budget and cuts, but the win-win-win here is the state fulfilling its duty, communities kicking in since they are stakeholders, *and* districts coming up with other ways to sustain themselves beyond a dependency on tax/levy revenue. Foundations need not solely focus on funding teachers, but can also support projects which offset financial burden.

    As for the equity issue, there are indeed some districts where residents have more money to contribute, but it comes down to planning and being engaged. Perhaps it isn’t possible to raise $400k in one day, but South Kitsap School District came together for a bit over a year and admirably raised $200k to send its band to the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

    In 2009, Bainbridge Schools Foundation’s “Save Our Teachers” campaign raised $200k in over a month after the District announced its intent to lay off 17 teachers. The donations came from yard sales, car washes and students, and was combined with $50k from the previous year, and $250k anticipated for that next year. the $500k total saved seven teachers.

    I understand the need to press the issue from the rhetorical and advocacy perspective, but an active foundation willing and ready to be an asset to its community’s school district is a plus.

  11. RV (and All),

    I think much of what you said we have a lot of common ground about. My frustration is that “ample” funding of K-12 is the state’s “paramount” duty in the Washington State Constitution. So, I have a lot of heartburn about relying on foundations and donations for public ed. The State doesn’t go out and build three quarters of a bridge and then seek for donations to finish it. The State doesn’t enlist folks in our national guard and then go out and ask for donations to outfit them for duty or to maintain their pay. The State of Washington is woefully underfunding it’s paramount duty and yet we are still funding discretionaries.

    Compound that with the fact that the State recently increased the levy lid for local levy money so that we could go out to our local communities and ask them to fund more from local coffers what the State should be paying for with State tax dollars. This is shifting the cost of the funding from state to local and the shifting the cost of going out for that funding ($50-$80K to run a levy these days). Not to mention creating tremendous disparities between districts that can pass higher levies and those that cannot.

    It is shameful!

    I am grateful for local business and private contributions to our schools. I am grateful for community support for the three straight four year levies we have passed, in a row. We could not keep our doors open without them.

    On a lighter side… I do seem to be regularly passing the new competency test for posting in the blogs… 2+5=…. lets see if I get it right…

  12. I can truly understand your frustration, and share it. However, the reality is many other programmes are also being cut. I know you’ll cite the ‘paramount duty’ clause, but duty without money is essentially another unfunded (or underfunded) mandate. Supplementary support doesn’t need to morph into full reliance on alternative sources via foundations or donations.

    That being said, I do think we’re past time for change regarding our educational models. Public/private partnerships are just one avenue for getting beyond the sometimes arteriosclerotic bureaucracy which comes with the system.

    If a school district isn’t meeting standards, parents will remove their children and enroll them elsewhere. This can further jeopardise a school’s standing, quality of education and performance. An engaged district with alternative options to sustain quality education will lead to more parental interest and enrollment where higher output generally occurs. A higher graduation rate leads to more college students or skilled workers who will put back into a community.

    If you think of it from a business perspective, private sector entities tend to invest where it yields higher benefit. Positioning a district as proactive and viable would seem a more empowered negotiating position than cutting of this revenue stream so destitution can discourage State complacency.

    I’m not suggesting funding should occur on the basis of which schools perform better, but in times of budget crisis it can’t hurt to be known as a district where such investments keep on giving.

    I got Z and wrote zeitgeist. 😉

  13. I’m aware that there are many people and organizations in the South Kitsap School District who give generously, not under the concentrated efforts of a School Foundation, but to the School and just about anyone that asks.

    Bainbridge Island has a School Foundation, the San Juan Islands School District has a School Foundation. We tend to think only relatively affluent school districts have successful School Foundations. 50% of the students in the Vancouver School District are on free and reduced lunch.

    Did you look at that Jim Parsley Community Center? Even if one person funded the entire project, which I doubt, there must have been a hugely concentrated and collected effort and vision to realize it’s completion.

    It’s possible the School Foundation is less about money and more about a collective vision. Parents are asked to support and help. Maybe the Foundation is the umbrella where people come together to unite and support and do things that seemed impossible.

    I remember reading in the POI several years ago that two organizations were contemplating building a rec center. One was the First Lutheran Church, I don’t remember the other, but I remember thinking that sure is silly. Why don’t they combine forces?

    This is a link to the Golden Apple Awards. One of my son’s teachers, whom he had for 3 years, won in 2009. Ann Smith. It’s limitless what teachers can accomplish when they are supported by the parents, the school districts, and the students.

  14. I believe most districts have some level of contribution – whether or not via formal foundation – and agree that it would be a mistake to presume it is just about wealthy districts. Bremerton has a school foundation, for instance. It is ultimately about concerted stakeholder efforts, and money is simply part of the currency towards realising prioritised vision.

  15. Beginning in 1998, Washington State Ferries raised fares for youth ages 5 to 11, and frequent riders under age 65, by a higher percentage than it did for single ticket adults and seniors. Children used to pay half the adult fare, (like seniors) and the 10-ride passenger ticket used to get a 40% discount. Today, both get only a 20% discount. This raised the cost of living in ferry dependent communities disproportionately for people under age 65. Is it any wonder that ferry dependent communities in the state are “graying” faster than the rest of the state, and their school enrollments are declining rapidly? Fix the ferry fare structure, and maybe families will move back to these communities.

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