Out of limbo: School board OKs contracts for nontenured teachers

Posted: Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Teachers fearful they might have been out of work next year had their worries eased Monday night.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved the contracts for the 84 nontenured teachers whose jobs appeared to be in limbo a month ago.

"This is a chance to move forward," Donna Peterson, district superintendent, said Tuesday.

Sammy Crawford, president of the board, seconded Peterson.

"It's huge," Crawford said of the importance of rehiring the teachers.

"These are people that we want to have in our schools next year," she said.

Crawford said she was worried however, that some of the teachers might not be coming back, and that some may have found jobs elsewhere.

According to Peterson, the teachers have 30 days to sign their new contracts.

Despite the rehire, Peterson expressed continued concern over the district's budget.

The renewal of the 84 positions was originally slated to go before the board on April 13, but was removed from the agenda at the beginning of April following an announcement by borough Mayor Dave Carey.

Carey said at the time he wouldn't recommend the district get the full local support it had requested, and instead tap into its fund balance to make up the difference.

Unsure of what it would receive from the borough, district administrators chose not to seek the board's approval of the rehiring of the teachers, fearing the district would not be able to afford them.

At the April 21 borough assembly meeting, Carey said he planned to appropriate $40 million for the schools, about $3 million less than the amount requested.

Following the announcement, district administrators chose to try and retain the nontenured teachers and dip into the fund balance to make ends meet.

Peterson said she remains reluctant to do so, though.

"Certainly we don't know yet what the budget looks like, so the only place to take money is from the fund balance, which isn't the best accounting practice, but we're doing it so we can move on," she said.

Crawford said the board also heard an update on money from the federal stimulus package, and said she was excited to hear about its possible uses.

"The big thing of course is that this not supplant money. It has to be used for other expenses," she said.

She said she expects to see most of the funding used on technology and training.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.

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