Kenai borough schools consider cutting teachers next year

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2002

HOMER (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is developing plans for cutting 55.5 teaching positions for the 2003-2004 school year.

Todd Syverson, assistant district superintendent, said the district's human resource department will ask principals for suggestions on where cuts can be made and what programs need to be protected.

However, the cuts must be significant, Syverson said.

''The human resource department will have to take control and make the final decisions,'' Syverson told the Homer Tribune.

Past years have required the loss of as many as 35 positions, but early retirements offset that loss.

''We don't envision a lot of teachers retiring this year, so we don't see a lot of things coming to the rescue,'' Syverson says.

The district was set up for 12,000 students, according to school board member Al Poindexter of Anchor Point. Projections for next year, however, show student enrollment at 9,000.

With funding linked to enrollment, ''That makes a huge financial impact,'' he said.

Ron Keffer, principal of Homer High School, said results of a cost differential study commissioned by the Legislature are to be released soon.

''It is our hope that when that thing comes, it will recommend that a district like us will get more money because of having schools like we have,'' he said, referring to the district's small, outlying schools.

''They are more expensive to maintain than a school sitting in the middle of Anchorage.''

Currently, the area cost differential for the district is 1.004.

''That means we get almost nothing to take into account the fact that some of our schools are across the water and are small,'' Keffer said. ''It costs an awful lot of money to support those smaller schools.''

Steve Jones is in his fifth year as principal at Seldovia's Susan B. English School. When he arrived, the school had 88 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. That number has dropped to 78. Jones guesses that the school's current 6.75 teaching staff will drop to four next year.

''That's a significant drop,'' Jones said. ''It is complicated by the fact that our student numbers in secondary school have been fairly stable and that's where you need people certified in the areas that they teach.''

Mike Wetherbee, principal at Ninilchik School, said he is waiting until after the first of the year to address that school's projected loss of two teachers.

''We are already bare bones here at this school,'' he said. ''Start talking four out of 50 (teachers) and that's much less than two out of 12,'' he said, comparing Ninilchik to some of the district's larger schools.

Jones and Wetherbee hope for more state funding.

''There was never a better time for them to fix the funding formula,'' Wetherbee said.

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