Students in Seaside could face larger class sizes, fewer instructors and a fight to save after-school athletics and activities as a result of $1.55 million in budget cuts.
Seaside School District Supt. Doug Dougherty is proposing the elimination of 17.46 full-time positions, the closure of Cannon Beach Elementary School and a reduction in funding for high school and middle school activities, including sports programs at both schools.
If Dougherty’s proposed budget is approved by the district’s budget committee, the changes will go into effect in September.
The school board’s budget committee will consider the proposed budget on May 21. A public hearing is set for the school board’s June 18 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the district administration building, 1801 S. Franklin St.
The shortfall comes as the result of several factors.
The biggest of those is an increase in district contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System or PERS, which will go from 3.07 percent to 18.63 percent for tier one and two employees.
“So half of our general fund is seeing an increase (in payments) from 3 percent to well over 18 percent,” Dougherty said.
In addition, contributions to the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan will rise from 3.59 percent to 16.63 percent. Reduced proceeds from a local tax measure and a requirement to pay $60,000 as part of the district’s share of Clatsop County’s settlement with Georgia Pacific in the Wauna Mill property tax assessment case also affected the district’s resources.
“As you can imagine, we do not want to make any of these cuts,” said Dougherty. “We are trying to keep as many of our staff with us as possible.”
The employee cuts
Across the district, and in Seaside, the elimination of teachers will mean larger class sizes. In all, the budget proposes cutting:
• Three elementary level positions, including one part-time English language development instructor, one part-time Title I instructor and two regular classroom teachers;
• Three middle school level positions, including one science teacher, one technology teacher and one social studies teacher; and
• 2.60 high school level positions, including one math teacher, one social studies/health/driver’s education teacher and one part-time language arts/media specialist.
Dougherty said as a result of retirements, resignations and transfers, the actual number of layoffs is 5.37 teachers. Those people have already been notified, he said.
Dougherty’s budget also calls for the elimination of driver’s education and 8.46 classified staff positions throughout the district.
The closure of Cannon Beach Elementary will bring new faces to Seaside Heights Elementary and shift the boundaries for Seaside Heights and Gearhart elementary schools.
The 80 students currently attending Cannon Beach will be moved to Seaside Heights next year. Teachers will make the move with students.
Dougherty said Seaside Heights is more than able to accommodate the new students and teachers.
However, he added, a change to boundaries will be necessary to balance the population with Gearhart Elementary.
“The current boundary is Ninth Street, and there is a five-block flex zone on either side of that,” Dougherty said. “That will change to Fifth Street.”
He said Broadway and 10th Avenue will serve as the new flex zone. The flex zone allows the district, on a case-by-case basis, to place a student in one school or another to make sure student populations are equal.
“We are trying to balance class sizes as best we can,” said Seaside Heights Elementary Principal Dan Gaffney.
Gaffney said 30 children will be affected by the boundary change. Under the proposed changes, those students would be moved to Gearhart.
Parents have not yet been notified of the proposed changes, he said. With all the changes, including the closure of Cannon Beach Elementary, district officials are trying to do as much planning as possible before individually notifying parents, Gaffney added.
One person, two principals
Seaside High School Principal Sheila Roley also will become principal of Broadway Middle School next year. One of the considerations in making Roley principal of both schools was saving other positions in the district, Dougherty said.
Current Broadway Principal Doug Pease announced his resignation at April’s school board meeting. Effective in July, he will become the new principal of Floyd Light Middle School in the David Douglas School District in East Multnomah County.
Roley, who was the principal of Broadway Middle School prior to taking the same position at Seaside High, said she is looking forward to her new role.
“It is going to be a really interesting opportunity,” Roley said. “I am looking forward to examining both programs and looking for ways that we can work together to provide a very smooth grade-six-to-12 education for our students.”
Roley said she would meet with vice principals at both schools to begin examining how her new role will work.
“I am going to be meeting quite a bit with my administrative staff this summer, and we will all redefine our roles,” Roley said.
Another source of cuts facing both Broadway and Seaside High comes from activities budgets.
At the high school level, an additional $40,000 will need to be raised above the $35,000 raised last year, for a total of $75,000. At Broadway, almost $48,000 will have to be raised to maintain current programs.
“I think it is important to distinguish between cutting the sports program and cutting funding to the sports program,” Roley said.
The goal is to maintain the programs as is, said Dougherty and Roley.
Seaside High School Vice-Principal Jeff Roberts and Athletic Director Jason Boyd agreed.
Eliminating sports programs was never part of the budget discussions, Boyd said.
Fundraising will be ongoing for each sports season, according to Roley.
“For a particular sports season, we will have a deadline,” she said. “We will not hire the coaches and spend the money on that equipment until we have raised it for that season.”
Boyd said he felt good about funding for fall programs at the high school.
A critical piece of the fundraising is finding a way to make sustainable changes in how programs are funded in the future, said Boyd and Roley. This doesn’t necessarily mean trying to raise all the funds, but looking at additional efficiencies, events and options, including student fees, they said.
Everything is on the table, Boyd added.
Sports programs are critical to the success of students who participate, they said.
“It is our No.1 dropout prevention program, far and away,” Roberts said. “Kids that participate in athletics are so much more likely to graduate than those who do not. That connection is invaluable to us.”
“It is very rare that we have a kid who is involved in athletics that does not graduate from high school,” Boyd said. “Our coaches do such a great job.”
They are planning tournaments and fundraisers to help boost the programs. In the coming weeks, they said, they will begin formulating a plan with coaches, boosters and community members to make sure the programs continue as normal.
Boosting the programs
Linda Anderson, co-president of the Broadway Parent Teacher Organization, and the mother of a seventh-grade student, said the PTO has been having ongoing discussions about the cuts.
“After this last cut, with the sports and what not, the only thing we can do proactively is work hard at raising more money and finding alternatives to some of the expenses they had before,” Anderson said. “There is nothing anyone can do, so come with ideas, if you have suggestions, give them to the superintendent, give them to the principals. I think that they are also looking for ideas outside the box.”
Anderson said that arts programs are also important to students and in the schools.
“The PTO, we’re trying to take our lead from what the administrators think is the most important. We will do our best to raise as much money, if that is what is necessary,” Anderson said. “In the end that is what is going to save these things.”
Anderson said she thinks there is going to have to be belt-tightening throughout.
“The community should have more reasonable expectations about what the schools should offer now,” Anderson said.
Boyd met late last week with his coaches, and Roley said they would begin conversations with the Seaside High boosters soon.
The community is vital
Community support of the programs expected to be reduced is going to be vital in determining whether they are available to students in the future.
Although he doesn’t expect the district to eliminate any programs, Boyd said this requirement for more local contributions is going to be particularly difficult.
“This one is going to be felt by the community,” Boyd said. “Our community is going to have to fundraise more, or we are going to have to provide less opportunities for kids.”
“We have found in the past that our community is incredibly supportive of our kids, and we have asked a lot of them, and we continue to do that, but it really does take a community to successfully support our kids and raise them,” Roberts said. “We have had such a tremendous community here to recognize that they are all our kids.”
Roley said the feedback has so far been positive.
“The feedback is, ‘Let’s get going,’” Roley said. “People immediately stepped up and said, ‘We are going to have a busy summer.’”
This story originally appeared in Seaside Signal.