About 150 concerned teachers, students, and citizens filled the Grangeville Library Monday evening in an effort to get answers to multiple issues regarding the Mountain View School District.
The monthly board meeting was moved to Grangeville High School in anticipation of an abnormally high attendance which proved to be a wise move.
Many attendees focused their comments on the board’s suggestion to cut all health benefit coverage for dependents of district employees; a bold strategy that ultimately resulted in the board’s decision to budget an estimated amount that would cover 40% of the cost of premiums for spouses and children of staff members.
“My concern is if we cut 100% of their family [benefits], we’re going to lose a lot of those people,” said trustee Mike Dominguez. “I would push that we budget for a cut, but I don’t believe in a $714,000 cut,” added Dominguez as the room erupted in applause.
While union negotiations are still ongoing, the trustees were reluctant to stand by a decision in which teachers were compelled to seek employment elsewhere in order to retain their medical benefits. “My proposal would be that we subsidize that cut with Forest Funds,” added Dominguez.
The board also entertained comments from the public in regards to the recent termination of teachers Vincent Martinez (CVHS) and Mike Johnson (GHS). While several attendees provided heartfelt speeches and accolades on behalf of the students and staff at CV, the board stood by their decision to terminate Martinez despite hundreds of petition signatures and letters of recommendation from the community. Johnson’s contract will be renewed for the coming school year “with a very strict improvement plan that will be followed.” The board voted 4-1 in favor of extending Johnson’s contract; Casey Smith remained opposed.
The board opted to go into executive session to finalize their discussion on reduction in force, reconvening after 10 p.m.
“In looking at programs, in order to get to seven FTE (full time equivalent), there ends up being a reduction of one person out of this seven FTE,” said MVSD Superintendent Marcus Scheibe. “The programs for reduction in force would be a counselor position, district librarian position, elementary position, a shared position, elementary P.E. district wide, .67 of high school P.E. and one FTE moved from M&O (maintenance and operations) funds to a different fund and keeping that teacher on in a federally funded program. That will get us to seven FTE; it sadly loses us one person, but out of seven though, that’s as good as we could come at this point.”
What that means is basically the board supported the superintendent’s recommendation to realign, reassign and restructure the various elementary and secondary programs and the number of classroom and class offerings that will be made available across the district for next school year.
Actually, this is something that is done every year, it’s just that the task for 2019-20 was complicated by a known decline in student enrollment during 2018-19, which in turn impacts student attendance and equates to less state funding and fewer teachers supported by state funding.
In addition, the board originally agreed that no Forest Reserve Fund monies would be used to backfill the 2019-20 M&O budget. Without reductions in the number of teaching staff for 2019-20 the district would have employed over 10.5 FTE more than the number of FTE partially funded by the state. This means that those 10.5 FTE would’ve been paid for without help from the state and out of local (levy) funding with no support from the Federal Forest Reserve. There just wasn’t enough local funding to support all 10.5 FTE and since enrollment has dipped, reductions needed to be made.
There were a total of seven programs or class offerings (which translates to seven FTE, seven teachers) eliminated for 2019-20. Through looking at positions where the previous teacher occupying that spot had already retired or resigned, then reassigning remaining staff to fill programs that were core or otherwise deemed essential, and eliminating spots where the subject/program or class size could be absorbed by existing staff, the administration was able to reduce the number of staff paid from local M&O funds by seven FTE. Five of the final positions were simply not rehired once they were vacated through resignation. One position will be shifted from M&O to another funding source that aligns with that particular subject matter. A Tuesday afternoon update from the district office states that all employment issues have been resolved thanks to some more “shuffling of staff positions.”