Thirty-five staff members of Eastern Carver County Schools will no longer hold their positions as of June 30, 2021, as the termination and non-renewal of these probationary teaching contracts were eliminated at a May 24 District 112 School Board meeting.
Many of the positions were cut due to uncertainty in funding, a reduction of contracts (ex. 1.0 FTE to .8 FTE) and long-term substitutes being let go due to the return of the regular teacher to the classroom.
Jim O'Connell, director of administrative services for District 112, said there would be some re-hires from this group once enrollment and funding is secured for the 2021-22 school year. Though some positions won't be needed next year.
"We're filling in a lot of our long-term substitutes with tenured teachers," O'Connell said.
The board also moved forward with placing six teachers with continuing contracts on unrequested leave. Fred Berg, a former teacher in the district, cast a dissenting vote.
"This is something that doesn't happen here very often because we're talking about continuing contract teachers. We've been a growing district, well, forever. I came in 1993 and that's all we've done, is grow. We just don't get into this position very often," O'Connell said.
School officials hope to re-hire the positions sooner rather than later. Those on the list will have first crack if a position opens.
"This is what happens when 350 kids don't show up, and we don't pass a referendum, and we have to make cuts," O'Connell said. "It could have been more. We had 11 retirements and 15 resignations this year, or this number would have been larger."
The positions cut came primarily in foreign language, arts and speech.
After making $6 million in cuts this school year, and $3.1 million next year, with no additional state funding, the financial forecast continues to look cloudy with the current levy in Eastern Carver County Schools.
Coupled with savings from the closure of East Union Elementary, District 112 would be looking at cuts of $3.5 million in 2022-23, $2.3 million in 2023-24, and $250,000 in 2024-25.
A small referendum of roughly on average $150 per household comes off the levy in 2023-24, leaving the gap between revenue and expense greater.
"We saw a lot of stuff tonight where we see what happens when we fail a referendum. And what that means to the district overall in terms of changing our structure, cutting good teachers. Despite all of that, I think you look at all of that, at $980 per pupil, and the quality of education we continue to provide, which in our district is high, and yet we're underfunded compared to our peers almost by twice," Board Chair Jeff Ross said.
DeeDee Kahring, director of finance and operations, showed the board on May 24 what potential cuts could be in store in coming years without additional funding.
- Increase class size at secondary level.
- Loss of paraprofessionals, gifted and talented, foreign language and music, and clerical staff.
- Increase class size at elementary level.
- Losses in administration, special education and restructure of secondary media centers.
- Increase walk zone.
- Cuts to athletic and activities.
Kahring advised the board that an adoption of the future budget cuts would give voters an opportunity to see what would be lost in advance of a potential referendum vote in November.
"If we can be as specific as possible with what these pieces are, that would be very helpful. I think it will be imperative for us to be as clear as possible. And I struggle because when we do that some people will say we're threatening them. And that's not the case. We weren't as clear as we could have been (in 2019) and then people said you were being punitive," Board Vice Chair Lisa Anderson said.
Initial figures on a $300,000 permanent residence in ECCS boundaries, an increase of $550 per pupil would amount to a $193.70 increase per year. That number would go up to $229 per year on a $650 per pupil increase, and $264 per year on a $750 per pupil increase.
"These numbers are a snapshot in time," said Kahring, referring to a growing tax base which would reduce the tax impact per household over time.
Approval of an operating referendum, with the language and amount, could come at the June 28 board meeting.