Washougal schools’ budget is up for vote

Meeting will discuss popular official’s pay cut, reassignment

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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The Washougal School Board will vote Tuesday night whether to reassign a popular high school administrator as part of a proposed budget package that includes more than $600,000 in cuts for the 2011-12 school year.

Washougal High School Assistant Principal Gordon Washburn would become the school’s student services administrator under the plan. Taking the position would require the 27-year veteran educator to accept a $13,733 per year pay cut, according to the proposed budget.

Public school districts across Washington are scrambling to make cuts after the Legislature ordered significant decreases in education due to a $5 billion budget shortfall.

Washburn’s situation has resulted in a massive public outcry, particularly on the social networking site Facebook. Superintendent Teresa Baldwin said she respected the public’s concerns, but the state’s budget hole has forced the school district to make tough decisions.

Baldwin called Washburn an “icon” in the community. The high school’s performing arts auditorium bears his name.

“This change and restructuring does not reflect negatively at all (on him) in terms of his contributions to the performing arts and all he’s done to promote student success,” Baldwin said.

The Washougal School Board will hold a special meeting to vote on the district’s budget at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district office at 4855 Evergreen Way.

Washougal’s proposed school budget also includes a more than $500,000 reduction in staff salaries. Four staff members received reduction-in-force notices and six others were put on nonrenewal.

Nine nonprovisional staff members on the chopping block will return next year, according to the final proposed budget.

In addition to Washburn, the budget has a second administrative position shift. The district plans to downgrade its assistant superintendent position to a curriculum director at a savings of more than $32,000.

“It just makes it more fair and equitable if the administrative staff makes concessions to the budget,” Baldwin said.

The remaining $62,000 in cuts will come from reducing and restructuring classified service positions in the district office’s special services division and the transportation office.

Washburn’s plight has received the most attention from the public. More than 1,000 former and current students, parents of students and fellow educators have joined the Facebook group, “I support Gordon Washburn.”

In his new capacity, Washburn would be in charge of monitoring student discipline, theater management and installment of the school’s energy conservation software system. He would no longer have to perform teacher evaluations.

Washougal Principal Aaron Hansen and Assistant Principal Carol Boyden would be responsible for teacher evaluations, but would cede disciplinary duties to Washburn.

Boyden underwrote an American History teaching grant that pays a “good portion of her salary,” Baldwin said, explaining why Boyden, not Washburn, would remain as assistant principal.

Washburn did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517, http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities, http://www.facebook.com/raylegend, ray.legendre@columbian.com.