Chimacum schools to cut staff

Plans: 1.4 in administration and 2.0 in certificated staff

CHIMACUM — The Chimacum School Board has authorized Superintendent Rick Thompson to issue reduction in force notifications to certificated staff.

The board action Wednesday night came in response to declining state funding that is tied to a continued slide in enrollment.

The board approved the resolution 4-0 with an unspecified number of reduction notices.

Thompson said he is still working with classified staff and might include reductions in that area in the near future.

Thompson said Thursday he expects 1.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees to be reduced in administration and 2.0 FTE in certificated staff.

“It’s always hard,” Thompson said. “One portion of a contract is hard [to reduce].”

The board also approved Wednesday hiring an outside facilitator to work with them on a mission and vision statement, and it heard a community presentation that provided insight on both internal and external factors on the struggling school district.

Due to declining enrollment figures, Chimacum will consolidate classroom space from four buildings to three.

It will include Chimacum Creek Primary for students K-2, Chimacum Elementary for 3-6 and a mixed junior and senior high school for grades 7-12.

School districts have until May 15 to notify teachers of a pending reduction.

“The intent is to give the superintendent the ability to move forward as he sees fit,” board chair Mike Gould said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Thompson said he didn’t expect it to be a long list of staff members.

“We had some staff want to take a leave of absence for one year, and we’re going to deal with attrition first,” he said. “That’s always the most logical thing to do.”

Budgeting is complicated by the state Legislature, which appropriates school funding.

The Legislature is scheduled to complete its session Sunday, but the last three long sessions have been extended into June, Thompson said.

The board voted 3-1 to hire an outside facilitator for the second time in four years.

Gould cast the dissenting vote.

“In the list of priorities the school district has right now, I felt it wasn’t the best use of the public’s money,” Gould said. “At a time when some employees may lose their jobs, we’re bringing in a facilitator to talk about mission and vision.”

Thompson led a similar effort in 2015.

Board member Mike Raymond was among two others who supported the decision.

“You have to go monitor and check in to constantly see whatever it was you were doing was working,” Raymond said. “I want to develop and ask for an implementation strategy — short-range, long-range — to be used efficiently by school leaders and board leaders.”

Earlier in the evening, Tamara Meredith, the director of the Jefferson County Library, provided the fifth and final segment on enrollment solutions as part of the Choose Chimacum Enrollment Committee.

Meredith highlighted community development and engagement as two areas of needed improvement.

“Go get involved,” she told the board. “Sit at the table and listen at every community meeting possible.”

Meredith cited outside factors such as a lack of broadband internet access, the lack of a sewer system, housing and employment as some reasons for enrollment decline.

She also told board members she was part of their statistics.

“I have a seventh-grade daughter, and during my on-site interview 18 months ago, I asked about schools here, and they didn’t tell me anything because they couldn’t,” Meredith said.

What she heard from others made her reconsider purchasing real estate in the school district, and she chose to live in Poulsbo instead.

“There are many diverse reasons for decline [in enrollment],” Meredith said. “A ‘fix’ will not be found until current student and staff needs are met. That has to happen first before you can even start to look at adding to the district.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at bmclean@peninsuladailynews.com.

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