Monday morning report

zazu2 As the Lion King’s Zazu said to Mufasa, “Good morning, Sire. Checking in with the morning report.” During many hours of bargaining yesterday afternoon and deep into the evening, our teams moved forward on getting clear and strong evaluation language into our contract. We are also are began discussing RIF language. We are moving in the right direction there, but we are not moving anywhere on our biggest sticking point, class sizes. While you may have read this story problem Saturday, let us reiterate for those just returning from a weekend away:

Last May, the district laid off 61.3 FTE. Another 47 FTE members resigned or retired. Add those to get 108.3 positions gone.

The district recalled 41.6 FTE of the laid off teachers and hired 7.4 new positions. That totals 49 FTE.

How many fewer teaching positions do we have this year? Show your work.

Answer:  108.3 FTE minus 49 FTE equals 59.3 fewer FTE teachers this year than we had teaching last year. Extra credit: It is an 11 percent reduction in the teaching staff.

Formal bargaining sessions schedule for Wednesday. Informal committee discussions may occur before Wednesday. Speaking of Wednesday, the Board Meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at SKHS. Plan on attending (IN RED) and help let the School Board understand better the class size situation. Our General Membership meeting is a week from today at SKHS.

Our Bargaining Support Team will be meeting to keep planning for next steps. We’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading.

Bargaining session set for tomorrow

 

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Happy Tuesday to SKEA members and other weteachsouthkitsap blog readers. Our bargaining team is continuing to prepare carefully for tomorrow – the first of six scheduled bargaining dates – to negotiate with South Kitsap School District.
Meanwhile . . . there are many details to share. Before sharing, here are two important dates for you:

Wednesday, Aug. 21
There is a school board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. at the South Kitsap District Office. Please show your support for the bargaining team by showing up and wearing RED . This is our last time to talk with board members before our next very important date, Aug. 26.

Monday, Aug. 26
We have a critical General Membership Meeting on Monday, Aug. 26 scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in SKHS auditorium. At this meeting, we will take action on the motion we passed in May which said: Does the SKEA membership approve a vote to set a General Membership Meeting on Aug. 26, 2013 to take a vote to go on strike if there is no recommendation by the bargaining committee to approve the contract?

Now, onto the details
SKEA members (and many other employees) received an email letter from Supt. Michelle Reid. We are pleased that the superintendent is communicating with us. We felt a lot of questions we had last year went unanswered and we are pleased the tone is different this year.
However, we disagree with many of the points stated in the letter. The short version is this:
• The 61.3 positions that were eliminated reduced the district costs by $4.8 million.

• The portion of the new state money that is “designated” (as Supt. Reid says) actually frees up other district money that would otherwise have gone to those “designated” purposes.

• With new money coming from the state and levy, South Kitsap has more than enough to keep class sizes reasonable, eliminate split classes, and, have a robust fund balance.

• The district is receiving $1.9 million in new levy money plus nearly $94,000 more in new Local Effort Assistance (LEA) – a levy equalization payment based on need due to imbalances between districts in property assessments.

The longer version, for those of you who like facts and figures, is this:
In the letter, Supt. Reid says that the elimination of the 61.3 positions is not a savings for the district. Our view is that the district spent that money last year. With the elimination of the positions, they are not spending that money this year. That is a $4.8 million savings to the district.
The letter mentions that all but 15 of the people who were laid off have been rehired. Those people have filled the spots for those who retired or left for other reasons. While we are pleased that our members are being recalled, we are highly concerned about our overcrowded classes. The 61.3 positions, as it currently stands, have not been filled (except for one). We are not sure what 22 positions are referred to in the letter but, by our calculations, they have absolutely not YET been restored.
The letter refers to the additional $4.8 million from the state – many of those dollars designated for specific uses. The district spends money on salaries, special ed, transportation, bi-lingual ed, and so on. Now that the state is sending new money for all of these programs, the district can use the money they already had in the coffers for other items. We believe that some of that money must go to keeping our secondary class sizes reasonable and to eliminating split classes at the elementary level.
The South Kitsap School Board has directed our new superintendent to use the preferred staffing level at the secondary level which will result in:
• Staffing at an average of four more students per class than what we had last year;
• Adding more students will create an unsafe learning environment and tax our students when there is enough money to create a healthy fund balance and restore the eliminated positions so that our class sizes remain the same; and
• Packing more students into our classes is not the answer.
We have a dispute about what the fiscal consultant said at the last board meeting. We will send the transcript from that meeting to you on your home emails (so if we don’t have your home email, send it to: skeapo@gmail.com). We certainly do not want to get into a scrape about the financial consultants – both of whom we believe created a very solid report which will help keep South Kitsap School District on solid financial ground. The report did not consider the new monies that have come in to South Kitsap for the coming year. We asked Debra Aungst clarifying questions to get her opinion. It was not our intention to put her in a difficult spot – but to find out if she genuinely saw a need for South Kitsap to have a reduction in force of 61.3 positions.
Finally, toward the end of the letter, Supt. Reid says that Debra Aungst stated that in observing the 2013-14 budget, as written, it is now balanced. One question that begs answering is this: How could an elimination of 61.3 positions have been necessary, when the budget shows that the district only plans to remove 40 positions? How is that balanced? Reid further asserts in her letter that, “A balanced budget indicates to her (Aungst) the reduction in positions is producing a balanced budget and makes fiscal sense.” Hmmm. The budget shows that there is a budgeted increase of $5.5 million – more than double – what they spent last year in supplies and materials. The fiscal consultant suggested, in her report, that the district increase its ending fund balance to five percent over a three year period. The way the budget currently stands, it will increase the ending fund balance to far more than five percent (more than twice as much this year) in a one-year period. We have other questions. We’ll keep you posted.

Board meeting presentation paints grim picture but leaves out missing pieces

There is good news after last night’s board meeting at South Kitsap High School. Some 85 people listened as the District’s financial consultant shared the results of South Kitsap’s budget situation. While the picture painted was rather grim, the report focused on past practice and did not address the sizable chunk of new revenue coming in. Your SKEA bargaining team believes the money coming in will allow the district to build its reserve and provide much-needed class size relief.

As expected, the financial picture was not pretty. There is a reason SKEA members took a no confidence vote in the district’s chief financial officer last spring. Some might say, “Mistakes were made.” Last night’s report reveals, indeed, that over the last few years budget mismanagement has sent district finances in a downward spiral. The good news is that the district is in a position to turn that around.

New Supt. Michelle Reid is inheriting a situation that forces her to help SK climb out of a financial hole. Still, the hopeful news is that the picture presented last night is nowhere near as grim as it may seem.

What wasn’t discussed at all in the report is the nearly $5 million the district is receiving after the legislative session finally ended in late June. What also wasn’t discussed is another $1.8 million in levy money.

From our preliminary analysis, here is how it looks:

  • South Kitsap schools are receiving $4.8 million in new money this next school year;
  • South Kitsap schools have another $1.8 million in levy dollars coming this next school year;
  • Cutting some 61 positions last year gives them an additional $4.9 million in savings;
  • SKEA agrees that the school district’s financial health and stability is a priority and we believe, with new monies coming in, we can address over-crowded classroom issues while still maintaining a stable and reasonable fund balance;
  • There are a number of large chunks of money set aside in this year’s budget that no one has yet explained in terms of for what the money will be used.

Where does that put your SKEA bargaining team:

  • The district cut 61 positions. Fifty-seven SKEA members were laid off. Of those people, 16 remain jobless. Those positions, however, are filling positions opened by retired members and/or other attrition– not filling positions which were eliminated by the district last spring. Keep in mind, of the 61 positions eliminated by the district, only 1.6 of those positions has been filled. The money the district saves from this elimination is about $5 million a year.
  • Without filling any of those 61 positions, the district will have a windfall of nearly $12 million. While we agree we need to rebuild our reserves, we don’t believe this should happen all at once and that the build-up occur by packing our overcrowded classrooms with more students.
  • The bottom line? As the District’s consultant said last night, a staffing reduction at this level is unnecessary and does not serve our students or our community.

There are other things to consider. Because the special session ran so late in June, no one knew exactly how much money would be received from the state. Because the new superintendent made the right decision to bring in two independent budget analysts, financial issues could not really be bargained. While negotiations were being held through the summer, many issues were “on hold” until everyone got a better understanding of the finances. Now that we are on track there, we expect more substantial talks around class sizes and other financial issues to occur.

We are bargaining Aug. 14-16 and, again, Aug. 21-23. With our better understanding of the finances, we will be negotiating on behalf of our students and our members to make sure our students receive the high quality of education they deserve in our already maxed out classes. We plan to address overcrowded secondary classes, split elementary classes and stronger contract language to continue to keep our learning environments safe.

Your bargaining team is ready, willing and able to bargain for as many days necessary to ratify a fair contract that will not accept anything which lessens the high quality of education the students in our community deserves.