Educator cuts looming in district

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Declining student enrollments could translate to fewer educators when Washington County Schools begins its academic year in August.  

Staffing formulas approved by the board of education last week indicate possible cuts to as many as four educator positions at the high school and one position at Washington County Elementary.

North Washington Elementary could also cut an educator’s position, under newly released district staffing formulas. 

Washington County Middle School, which is projected to see stable student enrollment figures, would likely escape such cuts, but may not be immune to other reductions in personnel and programs next year, as the district tries to reign in spending. 

Overall, the district has lost 196 students since its peak enrollment in 2002-2003, according to figures provided by the district. The district projects just 1,662 kindergarten through 12th-grade students will enroll in Washington County Schools this August — down from 1,858 just 10 years ago. 

Educators in the district speculated last week about what the projected cuts might mean for their job security. 

“No one is being ‘fired’,” Superintendent Robin Cochran wrote in an E-mail Friday.

However, personnel plans will be under Cochran’s review until March 31. 

Between now and then, site-based decision-making leaders — comprised of parents, teachers and principals at each school — will make decisions on what educator positions are filled at their schools. 

Principals will ultimately rule on “who” will fill those positions.   

“From those decisions, I have to look at the number of positions, the certifications of the teachers and then whether there are other non-tenured places in the district where the tenured staff may go,” said Cochran.

During that process, some district educators may choose to retire. Others may accept open positions at other districts or voluntarily leave the system. 

However, fewer teachers will likely be employed by Washington County or the 2013-14 academic year as district officials attempt to slash more than $933,000 from its total operating budget. 

Educators subject to termination—most likely non-tenured faculty members who have completed less than four years of service— will be notified in writing by May 15.

Some principals have already addressed potential cuts with their staff, Cochran said. 

“We’re not unique,” Cochran said. “Principals haven’t done anything wrong. The board has not mismanaged money. [Budget reductions] are hitting everybody and there will be changes.” 

Cochran said the district would additionally consider furloughing employees and closing central office the week of Christmas as a cost-savings measure. 

“We’re also looking at everyone’s extended days,” Cochran said. “We’re looking at maintenance. We’re analyzing bus routes.”