Guest Contribution by Arthur Green
At last school Deliberative, the SAU administration emphasized how they constructed their budget around the bull’s eye of priorities, our students. The farther away from student impact, the lower the priority. Remember that giant red bull’s eye that was up on the screen for ever so long?
Well, a funny thing has happened. A close examination of staffing information reveals some facts that are uncomfortable to the administration. This information has been withheld from the public and the budget committee through this year’s budget deliberations, and only made available to me via Right to Know.
In this current academic year (2015/16),
- 11.7 FTEs were cut from the district (Full-Time Equivalents)
This was done by
- 11.6 FTE teachers reduced
- 5 FTE regular education aides reduced
- 5 FTE professional non-teaching and support staff ADDED
You can see that the entire net reduction of 11.7 FTE positions was accounted for by the elimination of classroom teachers.
I have argued strongly that Timberlane is overstaffed in both the classroom and administrative levels and that many more reductions could be taken without harming education. What I am simply trying to point out is the administration’s hypocrisy in secretly making reductions which were portrayed a few months ago as catastrophic.
Here’s the staffing breakdown for 2015-16 as reported to the NH Department of Education in October. Source is the A12b staffing report, which I had to obtain this year by a Right to Know request, although the information for prior years had been posted to the district website. The numbers in the charts are “Full-Time Equivalent” (FTE) positions, so some of the positions are composed of multiple part-time employees. This also takes into account the Timberlane employees in the SAU office whose time is fractionally allocated amongst the schools. The A12b report covers actual staffed positions, and does not include budgeted-but-vacant positions.
Overall Staffing in 2015/16 is down from the previous year by 11.7 positions.
In last winter’s budget cycle, we were told that 12 vacant positions were removed from this year’s budget. Sandown Central closure was supposed to result in a reduction of 9 positions, but 4.5 new positions were added into the budget, for a net reduction of just 4.5 budgeted and filled positions.
So, the budget called for a reduction of 4.5 FTEs but in fact, the district reduced filled positions by 11.7 FTEs. This means that the district has chosen to operate with 7.5 fewer FTEs than budgeted.
Nothing prevents the superintendent from staffing to the full level budgeted, so it is reasonable to conclude that the administration does not believe they are putting the quality of education at risk despite their dire warnings to the contrary at last deliberative session.
What We Were Told Isn’t What Was Done
We were told that Sandown Central had to be closed in order to deliver a flatline budget in 2015-16 compared to the previous year.
As things have turned out, Sandown Central did not close, and the combined staff of Central and North schools is the same as the combined staff last year.
Nevertheless, the district-wide Learning Center may have generated some efficiency in teacher staffing. The district-wide total of pre-K and Kindergarten teachers is down by 2 (FTE) from 17.5 to 15.5.
Let’s review what was presented during last year’s budget cycle. First the reductions from closing Sandown Central (all of the following is laid out in the budget draft support documents on the district web site):
- 2.4 Teachers
- 1 Guidance
- 1 Nurse
- 1 Principal
- 1 Secretary
- 2.4 Custodians
Next, the positions added back in the final budget:
- Floating Nurse
- Danville assistant principal change to full time from part time
- Special ed teacher
- Technology specialist
Net impact of the budget:
- remove 1.4 teachers
- remove 1 guidance counselor
- add .4 of a principal
- remove 1 Secretary
- remove 2 custodians
- add 1 technology specialist
In other words, a 1.4 FTE reduction in teachers and 3 FTE reductions in support positions were to be taken.
However, the positions that were supposed to be cut as presented in the budget did not actually end up being cut. Instead of removing a secretary and a guidance counselor, the district kept those positions and then added a secretary and another guidance counselor. Instead of adding a technology specialist, a media aide was removed.
All of the actual reductions made this academic year (save for the 1 media aide) were in educational personnel.
All of the increases were in non-classroom personnel.
To put this in terms of the famous bull’s eye, the money was removed from the circle closest to the students and added to a circle farther from the students.
Mine is not a criticism so much as an observation. What we are told is not what is happening. First Sandown Central, now staffing reductions. Your school board should be demanding staffing information.
At the April 9, 2015 budget committee meeting, I made public comment asking the superintendent the following:
I have been made aware, through multiple personal connections to employees of the district, of a rumor that layoff notices have been issued to 14-16 teachers for the 2015-2016 school year. I would like to ask Superintendent Metzler if he can confirm this rumor.
The superintendent did not respond to this question but later in a private email he wrote the following to me:
Good evening! I am not sure who provided you misinformation regarding staffing. We have many decisions to make over the next few months. You can assume that all positions approved by the voters will be filled prior to the start of the 2015/2016 School Year. I don’t anticipate any open positions as we enter then 2016/2017 budget season. [My emphasis.]
Edited by D. Green