Friction over staff cuts boils over in Puyallup. Teachers: Superintendent ‘has got to go’

Puyallup teachers cast a vote of no confidence in the superintendent Tuesday night, citing frustrations over position eliminations and lack of communication.

Puyallup Education Association members voted 90 percent no confidence in Superintendent Tim Yeomans, with 96 percent member participation, or about 1,100 educators.

“We say Superintendent Yeomans has got to go,” PEA President Karen McNamara stated in a video streaming live from the union’s meeting on Tuesday.

McNamara said that Yeomans has refused to meet one-on-one with educators and “blames us for the proposed budget cuts and staffing reductions.”

“Superintendent Yeomans has provided insanely low staffing allocations for next school year, forcing potential class size numbers to skyrocket beyond reason and what’s best for our kids,” McNamara said.

She added Yeomans has cut 120 educator positions next school year.

Yeomans, who’s served as Puyallup superintendent since 2012, told The News Tribune on Wednesday that the number is not correct and that most reductions will stem from attrition and non-renewed contracts. He said he’s met with McNamara twice since December.

Yeomans said the district is facing difficult decisions following a teacher strike in September and changes in state funding that have created “huge financial hardships” for districts across the state.

“I acknowledge that the state Legislature did a very poor job of rolling out funding and made some major inequities,” Yeomans said. “The manner in which the funding applies to Puyallup, and what the teachers union is asking for, is unsustainable.”

“Somehow or another that’s being equated to blame,” Yeomans said. “There’s not blame here, this is just math … This is simply a result of being told ‘no.’”

The district is facing a $13.2 million deficit for the 2019-20 school year, said Brian Fox, district spokesman.

“This estimate is based on current state laws and funding models and does not assume any potential new revenues or expenditure obligations that the Washington State Legislature may enact in the ongoing session,” Fox said in an email to The News Tribune on Wednesday.

McNamara had strong words for Yeomans in her statement.

“He’s vindictive, disrespectful, anti-worker and a top-down superintendent ... Although he’s announced he’s retiring in 2020, that’s not soon enough,” she said Tuesday.

McNamara told The News Tribune Wednesday that educators will be making signs Thursday protesting budget cuts and will attend the school board meeting on April 22.

“This is hurting our kids,” she said about the cuts.

During negotiations between the district and PEA in September, the district shared the number of positions to be eliminated if certain salary schedules were adopted, according to district documents reviewed by The News Tribune.

In the adopted salary schedule, the district wrote that it would result in reductions equal to 125 certified positions in the 2019-20 school year.

If there will be a Reduction in Force (RIF) next year, the school board must pass a resolution by their May 6 meeting, Puyallup School District spokesman Brian Fox said.

Tacoma Public Schools officials passed a RIF resolution on April 11. That district is facing a $30 million budget deficit for next school year. State law requires certificated staff, which includes teachers, to be notified by May 15 if they will no longer have a job with the district.

The district has not announced which positions they’re looking at, Tacoma Education Association president Angel Morton told The News Tribune.

“I appreciate the cautious way they’re approaching that, but clearly I believe that our legislators are going to work with us to resolve this levy problem,” Morton said.

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