Musical staff

School board considers 2022-23 budget, amid criticism over staff cuts

At a school board meeting on May 26, school board members got a first reading of the district’s 2022-2023 budget, which is slated for approval at the next board meeting on June 9.

In recent weeks, the board has approved a proposed downsizing that Superintendent Slade McSheehy says is necessary to address a projected $1.3 shortfall in the planned budget.

In previous meetings, 1,424 students were scheduled to enroll in the district for the 2022–23 school year; now, however, the final budget shows a projection of 1,440 students – a change that will add about $176,000 in state funding.

The budget document, which can be viewed at tinyurl.com/yckn8dzs, shows a 6.8% increase over last year’s budget in salaries for certified employees and a 9.4% increase in salaries for classified personnel. , both of which are explained by new bargaining agreements with these employees. .

As a result, employee benefits also increased by 6.4% in the 2022-2023 budget.

Personnel costs in 2022-23 will represent 79% of the district budget; in 2021-2022, they represented 77% of the budget.

Workforce reduction plan unchanged since May 12

The district’s downsizing plan, first announced on April 29, has been roundly criticized by union leaders from the Vashon Education Association and Vashon Educational Support Personnel, as well as many VISD staff and members of the public, for negatively impacting staff members who serve the most deprived and priority populations in the district.

The cuts, aimed at restoring $917,000 to district coffers, include reduced hours for the district’s occupational therapist, who works one-on-one with special education students, and para-educators who provide a math support and other aids for students with special needs. and English language learners.

The cuts also reduced the hours of the full-time Chautauqua Elementary School librarian and her Spanish teacher. Other cuts targeted the sixth-grade music curriculum, art classes at both McMurray Middle School and Vashon High School, and eliminated a French elective at McMurray.

Food service workers have had their hours reduced and this reduction has also eliminated a custodial position.

In mid-May, board member Kali Aguilera suggested that the business office look at the savings made by furloughing some of the district’s highest-paid administrators for eight days, including including the district superintendent, and/or freezing their most recent salary increases, which were approved at the April 29 meeting at which a downsizing proposal was first presented.

However, last week McSheehy told The Beachcomber that he had consulted with the district’s legal counsel about the idea and was told that freezing or removing these positions could “leave the district running a significant risk of breach of contract, given the approval of the former board of directors of director contracts.

The idea was not discussed again at the May 26 board meeting.

The teacher talks about the cuts in the music program

At the start of the meeting, the board heard from Erin Kealy, who recently moved to Vashon to take up a 0.8 full-time job (FTE) position at Chautauqua Elementary School (CES).

Kealy said she was looking forward to taking her job and moving to Vashon because of the community’s vibrant musical culture and community, which he hoped to further encourage in his young students.

However, due to the RIF’s proposal to eliminate the sixth-grade group position at McMurray Middle School, that program’s instructor, Britt Dahlgren, who had seniority on Kealy, was offered 0, 2 FTEs from Kealy’s post, leaving Kealy at 0.6 hours. in Chautauqua.

Keely explained, in a phone call with The Beachcomber after the board meeting, that Dahlgren has now offered not to impose the 0.2 FTE reduction on Kealy, but rather to cut his own hours, leaving the two part-time district music teachers. status.

During the board meeting, Kealy spoke with urgency and passion about the importance of music education to the school district, saying she and Dahlgren shared a goal that the district’s music program would grow under their direction.

“It saddens me that my position for the past year was with an 0.8 contract and rendered me unable to see all of the students each week, which I consider to be an equity issue,” said Keally.

She also shared how, before the cuts, she shared with the administration a five-year plan to expand the music program to attract more students to the district.

“I chose Vashon because of his strong community connection to music,” she said. “But this systemic withering of our program will not be sustainable. Britt and I want to work more for students. To provide them with opportunities to sing and perform for a wider audience, to participate in national competitions, to educate their musical selves. But I fear that as this program is reduced, it will not be sustainable.

Kealy urged more members of the community to raise their voices. “I see three choices in front of us: do we want a reduction in musical opportunities? Do we want our music program to remain in its current state – where not all students benefit from music lessons every week? Or do we want to reflect our beautiful musical community and develop our school music programs accordingly? »

She concluded by sharing written copies of her five-year plan for the district’s music program, as well as a letter to the board from one of her young music students, Marlow Cardoza, who expressed her belief that musical education was of vital importance to students. (See “Letters to the Editor,” page 6.)

Next meeting on June 9

The school board will be asked to approve the new $27.2 million budget at its June 9 meeting.

Meetings are held in person at the Chautauqua Elementary School District Conference Room and are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel at tinyurl.com/bddp6saj.