Port Townsend poised to lay off up to 10 teachers

PORT TOWNSEND — Notices will go out later this week to teachers who will be laid off in the Port Townsend School District.

About eight full-time positions will be eliminated — at least until the district hears what the final state revenue numbers are from the Legislature, said Superintendent Gene Laes.

The School Board voted unanimously April 25 to allow Laes to layoff as many teachers as are necessary to balance the budget.

Exactly how much that is cannot be determined until the Legislature, now in extended session, passes a two-year state budget that mends a $5.3 billion deficit hole.

Laes this week will deliver the notices, which by law must be given to teachers by May 15.

Because not all the teachers are full-time, it could end up being as many as 10 teachers to make up the eight full-time positions.

Exactly how many will be worked out by Thursday, Laes said.

He said that some of the teachers who get pink slips could be hired back.

“If there are retirements or leaves that we don’t know about yet, we might give a notice, but that person won’t actually be laid off,” he said.

But the bigger questions remain how much will be coming to the school district — and all the others in the state — once Olympia settles on a biennial budget.

“This is the worst I’ve seen in 25 years,” said Laes, who was longtime superintendent of the Cape Flattery School District in Clallam Bay before retiring and returning to school administration in Port Townsend last year.

“Once in the late ‘80s early ‘90s we had the budget come out in June, but that was just because they couldn’t agree on things.”

In addition to cuts in funding to districts to reduce class sizes, the Legislature is also debating across-the-board cuts to teacher pay.

The Senate budget included a 3 percent cut, and a 1 percent cut has also been debated, Laes said.

“Recently we’ve heard that Gov. [Chris] Gregoire has been talking about a 1.9 percent cut, so it will probably fall somewhere in there,” he said.

In a previous budget agreement, the state cut kindergarten-to-12th-grade education by $60 million..

Each student currently brings in about $5,200 in state subsidies to the school district.

The Port Townsend district’s current budget is $1.1 million, 80 percent of which is payroll.

Currently the district has about 180 staff members for its 1,271 students.

The shortfall for the 2010-2011 school year is $350,000, and the projected shortfall for 2011-2012 is $500,000.

“Another important thing to note is that the [Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction] has been looking at some economic forecasts, and they are telling us that June and beyond isn’t looking any better and might even be worse,” Laes said.

“So we’ll have to see what that brings.”

_________

Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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