Tacoma Schools eliminates 13 more positions in latest round of layoffs

Tacoma Public Schools has eliminated another 13 positions as it tries to fill a budget hole.
Tacoma Public Schools has eliminated another 13 positions as it tries to fill a budget hole. News Tribune file photo

Tacoma Public Schools leaders have eliminated another 13 jobs as they work to fill a budget hole they say resulted from awarding raises to teachers who staged a week-long strike in September.

Last month, the district eliminated 19 positions in what leaders have deemed Phase 1 of a financial plan that is anticipated to amount to $16 million in savings.

The district announced the latest job cuts at a board meeting Monday night.

“We have been facing a pretty significant budget deficit this year, and we’ve outlined a process to address those budget deficits,” said Rosalind Medina, the district’s chief financial officer.

That process began with eliminations at the administrative level, following public concern that the district was “top heavy” in its administrative costs. The board addressed those concerns Monday.

“During the strike, there were a lot of people who reached out, and there was talk up on this dais about due diligence around appropriate staffing levels and the concern that we were top heavy,” school board member Scott Heinze said.

Of the latest positions eliminated, seven were vacant positions, two were standard eliminations, three were transfers to other positions and one was a resignation.

None were teacher positions.

While Tacoma Schools was ranked No. 1 in the state in 2017 for highest administrative staffing costs according to state superintendent reports, not all districts coded their staff the same way, Medina said. Positions that were considered administrative in Tacoma were not considered administrative in other districts, resulting in higher costs.

Still, the report encouraged the district to perform deeper analysis and adjustment of its positions, Medina added.

So far this school year, central administrative staff has dropped from 195.39 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions to 179.69 FTE, with exempt (non-union) dropping from 129.43 FTE to 125.19 FTE.

The latest 13 positions eliminated were:

Clinical coordinator, Health Services

Director, Highly Capable

Director, Operational Data & Analytics

Technical writer

Innovative technology specialist

Equipment repair technician

Instructional facilitator (2 positions)

Administrative secretary, facility use

Administrative secretary, workers compensation

Administrative secretary, Head Start Program

Relief custodian (2 positions)

Another 10 positions are expected to follow by the end of the year.

The board ensured that no programs were being cut — yet — but that some could see different staffing models, one of them being the Highly Capable program, whose director was laid off.

The program, which provides special services to students who perform “at high intellectual levels when compared with others of their age and experience,” according to the Tacoma Public Schools website, will not go away.

“That work will continue on, and we’re going to adjust the way the service is supervised,” Medina said.

Lack of money also figured prominently in the district’s priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session. Tacoma Schools intends to ask state lawmakers to:

Get rid of levy rates determined by property value, thereby equalizing local levy funding for all districts.

Change the requirements to pass a bond to a simple majority (50 percent plus one), rather than the current super majority (60 percent).

Fully fund the cost of special education.

The district’s legislative liaison, Charlie Brown, said the agenda is similar to the district’s past priorities.

“I think you’re going to find that we’re pretty much in sync with a whole lot of other school districts in the state, and we’re going to have a lot of the same issues,” school board member Karen Vialle said.

Allison Needles covers news in Puyallup, Sumner and Bonney Lake for The Puyallup Herald and education news for The News Tribune in Tacoma. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.