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D21 plan saves staff jobs

North Wasco County School District’s board of directors approved two labor contracts and an annual budget June 11, and were able to rescue a handful of positions previously targeted for elimination, and restore operations to a full school year without furloughs.

“We had planned to eliminate two custodial positions, an elementary music teacher and an elementary PE teacher,” said Randall Anderson, the district’s chief financial officer. “We restored all four of those.”

“No one wanted to do that,” added Candy Armstrong, district superintendent, noting that projected shortfalls forced plans for those and other reductions. “We had the opportunity to put those back and so that worked out great. We also added a couple of additional classroom aides at one of the high-needs elementary classrooms.”

The ability to restore those positions was the result of certain labor contract provisions and confirmation of a reduction in the district’s PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) contribution rate.

“We needed to make the budget recognize what was in the labor agreements, and the PERS reduction actually allowed us to reshuffle things and put the positions we thought were going to be cut back in the budget,” Anderson said.

The restructured budget also allows for other additions where more staffing was needed, including a receptionist position at Wahtonka campus, one half-time duty assistant at each of the three elementary schools, and a half administrative assistant to the superintendent and half planning person for the district, moving the superintendent’s current administrative assistant half into human resources. The latter arrangement was already under way unofficially, Armstrong noted.

The final reduction in force will be for the equivalent of 2.2335 full-time employees, which includes elimination of a half-time Talented and Gifted program coordinator.

Armstrong was hopeful that program would live on despite the reduction, since two previous program coordinators are now administrators at Chenowith Elementary and The Dalles Middle School. Reduced federal funds will also mean a reduction of one licensed Title 1 employee and .4835 for a speech language pathologist.

Earlier planning had also included six furlough days, but changes to the insurance piece of the labor contracts, specifically reductions to the amount the district contributes under the Health Reimbursement Arrangement for people who opt out of insurance, helped free additional money to restore the full school year calendar.

Union contracts did include cost-of-living increases over the next two years, but none for the 2012-13 budget year.

The Education Support Professional contract, which covers most unlicensed employees, includes a 2 percent increase next year and 2 percent the following year. The contract covering licensed employees includes 1 percent next year and 2 percent the following year.

A 1 percent increase for unrepresented employees has also been budgeted for next year, but will not be approved by the board until the next board meeting.

Approved compact

The school board also accepted the Achievement Compact for 2013, which outlines goals for improvement.

The compact includes four main goals staged over three school years and scheduled for completion in the 2014-15 school year:

  1. Implement Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balance Assessments, including improvement of teaching strategies and best practices;

  2. Adopt district-wide, K-12 English Language Arts curriculum and English Language Development curriculum aligned to Common Core State Standards;

  3. Embed K-12 curriculum professional learning in the academic calendar;

  4. Implement district-wide full-day kindergarten.

Administrator evaluation

The district also accepted a Licensed Administrator Evaluation Process and related policy changes.

”At our last meeting, we had heard presented the work that had been done on the Licensed Employee Evaluation system,” Armstrong noted. “Last night, we also adopted one for the administrators.”

The process includes an evaluation timeline, reflection guide, performance goals, professional growth plan, evaluation summary and an educational leadership-administrator rubric.

Retirement celebration

As the final board meeting of the 2012-13 school year, the meeting also included a celebration to honor all the retiring employees and the three directors departing the school board, Dave Jones, Brian Stahl and John Fredrick.

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