The Shakopee School District is down 12 teachers from last year due to budget cuts stemming from a series of budget errors and overspending, according to the district.
At the end of last school year, school officials announced they would not be able to rehire some non-tenured teachers due to the budget cuts. At the time, district spokeswoman Ashley McCray said they hoped to minimize cuts to fewer than 10 non-tenured teachers, but this week Shakopee Education Association President Dale Anderson said the former superintendent made promises the district was unable to keep.
“Looking back on this past year, it feels like the former superintendent said whatever would make the current moment easier (i.e. making ‘promises’ that were not realistic) rather than saying the truth, taking responsibility and apologizing individually to those most affected,” Anderson wrote in an email to the Valley News.
Anderson said former superintendent Rod Thompson made verbal promises to rehire as many teachers back as possible, but those promises conflicted with the reality of the Human Resources Department and principals’ need for flexibility in filling roles opened up by teachers resigning or retiring over the summer.
At the end of last school year, 30 non-tenured teachers left the district or were told they could not return to teach this year. Of those, nine resigned on their own, nine ended up being rehired and 12 were not rehired. Of those 12, six were cut for performance reasons, according to Anderson.
Anderson said the remaining six cuts were positions that could have been restored if a remaining tenured teacher left the district.
“The cuts occurred due primarily to the lack of financial oversight provided by the previous superintendent. As a result, the district overspent the budget by more than $5 million in 2015-16 and $2 million in 2016-17,” Anderson said.
School district officials would not comment beyond providing staffing numbers.
Anderson said he is disappointed with the way everything played out last spring, but he wants to work collaboratively with new district leaders to move forward and heal as a teachers union and as a community.
“We are doing our best to hold the district leaders accountable for their actions. However, once the district leaders who made the decision leave, then what?” he said. “I have tremendous respect for the difficulty of many of the decisions people like (former Executive Director of Human Resources) Scott Hare and (Teaching and Learning Director) Nancy Thul were forced to make as a result of the actions of the (former) superintendent — actions for which he did not then, nor does he apparently now, take responsibility.”
Anderson said he is encouraged so far by Interim Superintendent Gary Anger’s willingness to meet with teachers and get to know them and their work.
“He is certainly hitting all the right notes as he takes the reins, and I am hopeful that his leadership will help to heal and improve the district’s relationship with teachers,” Anderson said.
Despite the disappointment and frustration with the district’s situation in recent months, Anderson said Shakopee’s teachers are committed and want to make the community proud of its schools again.
“Together, we will weather this current storm and come out stronger in the end,” he said.