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News / Clark County News

Facing nearly $20 million budget deficit, Evergreen Public Schools may cut 140 positions

Reductions would affect 2024-2025 school year

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 28, 2024, 7:13pm

Evergreen Public Schools leaders are proposing cutting 140 positions across the district to meet nearly $20 million in budget reductions for the 2024-2025 school year.

The initial draft of the budget reductions was shared and discussed in a board workshop Tuesday night, which was open to the public in person but not streamed online.

It’s the third year in a row the district has faced a deficit in the realm of $20 million. Much like last year, leaders point to continued enrollment decline, inflation and the exhaustion of pandemic-era federal relief dollars as factors behind the needed reductions.

“Ninety cents of a dollar goes to staff,” Superintendent John Boyd said Tuesday. “There’s no way to reduce $20 million without affecting staff.”

Among the cuts are 22 elementary teacher librarians, six middle school deans, seven instructional coach positions, dozens of certificated teachers and more.

Last year, parents and students expressed frustration with the district’s decision to cut several middle and high school teacher librarian positions.

So the district’s proposal to cut all of its elementary teacher librarians struck a familiarly sour chord.

“A ‘bare bones’ district just doesn’t cut it,” Nancy Doyle, a guardian of a student in the district, said in an email Wednesday. “Our grandson’s middle school librarian was cut last year, so he entered middle school without a teacher librarian or thriving library. He regularly mentions how much he misses the beautiful library and incredible librarian he left behind at (Illahee Elementary School).”

The 22 teacher librarian positions amount to a reduction of $3,256,000 — the largest loss of any one position aside from districtwide certificated teachers. The reductions would be offset by the addition of half-time classified media tech positions at each school to aid in checkouts and collections, Boyd said.

The proposed reductions were made based on a community feedback survey and conversations between staff and board members since November, leaders said. Staff survey results showed special education, academic intervention support and student extracurricular activities were their biggest priorities to keep.

The cuts also include more than $3.5 million at the district’s administrative service center, amounting to 15 percent of the office’s budget — the largest cut at that level in each of the last three years. Boyd said one of the reasons behind those proposed cuts was feedback leaders kept hearing from the community about prioritizing positions in the classroom.

“The feedback from the community was ‘Let’s try to keep those away from the schools to the extent we can.’ We just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Boyd said. “While we’re reducing big at the district office because it was difficult to find those reductions at the elementary level particularly, we know that comes with some pain throughout the whole system.”

To Learn More

Information about Evergreen Public Schools’ budget is at https://sites.google.com/evergreenps.org/budget-fiscal-services/budget

Boyd also said the district would pause curriculum adoption to save more than $1 million, as well as pursue furloughs for building administrators. Those initial conversations with administrators, Boyd said, were positive.

The district is also proposing to add 16 multilingual certificated teachers to its districtwide staff.

All changes proposed Tuesday are not final. The district will deliberate over the next month and unveil its final budget recommendations at the March 26 board meeting.

Equity goals

In each of the last two years, staff and community members questioned the district’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion following cuts to positions that worked directly with Evergreen’s students of color. Those positions lost included three of the district’s four equity coaches in 2022 and dozens of at-risk advocates and academic interventionists in 2023.

Klarissa Hightower resigned from her position as Evergreen’s first-ever director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the end of last school year. On Tuesday night, Hightower expressed to the board during public comment her frustration with the district’s commitment to equity.

The proposed cuts that stood out to her, she said Wednesday, are the loss of instructional coaches at the middle and high school levels. Those positions work directly with teachers to help implement new curricula or classroom strategies, such as considering equity or social-emotional learning factors.

“That led me to a particularly gut-wrenching response,” Hightower said. “The way in which the equity department has a funnel to provide things to teachers about what we do is through those coaches. If we’re removing them, I’m not sure who’s going to do that.”