Tacoma School Board gives OK to notify teachers of possible layoffs

Staff writerMay 8, 2014 

Tacoma Public Schools could lose as many as 17 teachers, and an undetermined number of teachers aides, following action Thursday night by the Tacoma School Board.

The board, in a 4-1 vote, gave Superintendent Carla Santorno permission to notify staff members that their jobs may be in jeopardy if a reduction in force is necessary this year. Board member Catherine Ushka cast the sole vote against the RIF.

By law, teachers must receive notification by May 15 if their teaching contracts will not be renewed. Teaching assistants, known as paraeducators, would be notified by June 1, said Lynne Rosellini, assistant superintendent for human resources.

Tacoma Education Association President Adrienne Dale said the move was “crushing.”

The district said staffing is based on student enrollment and demand for certain course offerings at the high school level.

District officials predict a loss of 400 high school students in the fall.

They also cited the anticipated loss of about $1.7 million in federal Title I funding -- the result of Washington state not maintaining a waiver under the No Child Left Behind law. While Tacoma would still receive those dollars, they could not be spent as they were this year: on five new pre-schools.

Loss of the waiver from the federal government means the Title I money, aimed at high-poverty schools, would have to be spent on before- or after-school tutoring and other academic programs.

To keep the pre-school programs intact, the district must find funding elsewhere in the budget.

“I understand what losing 400 students means to a school district,” Dale told the board. “But I also know that it is just as likely those 400 students will be in our schools come September.”

She also said it’s wrong to hold Tacoma teacher staffing hostage to the state waiver loss.

“No other local school district is planning to RIF teachers or support staff because of the waiver loss,” Dale said. She said that last year, Tacoma rolled over more than $1.2 million in Title I dollars. And she said both state funding and local levy funding is increasing.

The board’s resolution approved Thursday night also gives the district permission to transfer some administrators with teaching certificates to non-supervisory positions. The resolution said the “limited layoffs” would impact only teachers with “narrow or specialized certification or endorsements.”

Some experienced teachers could be reassigned to other schools and different grade levels, under provisions of union contracts.

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