Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools are overstaffed, according to formulas it uses, which will cause officials to dip into savings this year and re-examine staffing levels for the future based on enrollment and the current pupil-to-teacher ratio.
When the district projected enrollment numbers in November of 2010 for the school year beginning August 2011, the projections were higher than the actual enrollment, assistant superintendent Dave Jones said during work sessions prior to last Monday’s school board meeting. At that meeting Jones released the district’s preliminary budget for FY13, which should be finalized next month and will address teacher staffing levels.
The district employs 1,301 employees. There are 675 certified staff, which include teachers and specialists, 562 support staff — nurses, custodians, secretaries, food service workers and aides. The remaining 64 employees are categorized as building and district administration.
Jones said the district was faced with two options after a 20-day count period in October revealed enrollment numbers were less than projected. The count period is when the district learns the actual number of students in classrooms and determines how much money the district will receive from the state for that year, Jones said.
“OK I’m now going to try to trim however many teachers because I’m getting less money from the state,” Jones said describing the district’s first option. “Or I’m going to spend money out of the fund balance, retain those teachers for this year, but let them know (that) next year they’ll be gone.
“So when we say we’re overstaffed, that’s what we’re talking about. We had a number of schools that we had our enrollment come in less than projected.”
The 20-day count revealed enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year at 8,956 students, which is below the projected enrollment of 9,086, a difference of 130 students.
The district, Jones said, is going with the second option for this year — to retain teachers for this year using its fund balance, which Jones equates to a savings account.
“This year, we’ll use some of our savings account so we don’t have to interrupt instructionally what’s going on with the students in the district,” Jones said.
When the district hires teachers in the spring, there is a contract with a commitment.
“As a district we have a history of honoring those commitments,” Jones said.
Jones said the district had previously sat down and examined teacher staffing levels based on projected student enrollment.
“We have a procedure for projecting out students and we look at who we have and move them forward and then add the ones that are coming in,” Jones said. “Then we staff the buildings according to those numbers. So the building will come in at 10 students less or 20 students less (after the count).”
Jones said the district tries to keep 24 students in a classroom for grades four through twelve, and 22 students in a classroom for grades one through three. If the building comes in 10 or 20 students less than projected, the procedure for evening out the ratio is not as simple as it seems.
“Some people would say, ‘Oh you cut one teacher and you don’t have a problem anymore,’” Jones said. “The problem is of those 20 students, two of them are in kindergarten, three are in first grade, four are in fourth — and boom, they’re not all in one classroom that we can say, ‘Teacher, you’re gone.’”
The overstaffing issue sometimes can be solved with attrition, Jones said, if a teacher retires, voluntarily leaves the building or is moving. If the issue can not be resolved at that point, the district will try to shuffle teachers around before having to cut positions.
“What we’ll try to do is say, ‘OK, we’ve got an extra math teacher at this high school but we had somebody retire at this school this year,’” Jones said. “So we’ll do a transfer of that teacher from this school to (that) school and that way we’re not having to tell that teacher, ‘Sorry, you’re no longer employed by us.’”
The actual decision of who stays and who goes is up to the principals in the building in collaboration with the district’s human resources department, Jones said.
At the February school board meeting, Jones will present the FY 13 budget, along with additional details about FY 12 with regards to enrollment and staffing, KPBSD communications specialist Pegge Erkeneff said.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 6.
Logan Tuttle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.