Community Education

Peninsula School District issues layoff notices to 15 in non-teaching roles

Posted on April 7th, 2023 By:

Peninsula School District has given layoff notices to 15 employees in non-teaching positions. The district will cut the hours of 31 more as it trims $12 million from its 2023-24 budget.

The district must cut payroll because enrollment remains lower than before the pandemic: 5% lower than in 2019. Also, grants that helped schools weather the impact of COVID-19 are no longer available, among other budget hits.

Voters approved two levies in February. Without them, the district would be facing an even more bleak budget scenario, chief financial officer Ashley Murphy said.

Murphy added that this year’s reduction will create a sustainable budget and similar drastic cuts should not be needed going forward.

Notifications completed this week

The district attempted to meet with employees whose positions will be cut or reduced by March 31. However, some weren’t immediately available. So, district officials have spent this week meeting with individuals affected.

The district cut the hours or days worked of 31 employees. Those reductions made up the equivalent of 5.5 full-time positions.

“To limit the impact on students, many of these reductions were days staff work in the summer,” said spokeswoman Danielle Chastaine.

Another 21.7 positions were reduced through retirements, resignations or reassignments. The vacated positions won’t be refilled.

No teaching positions are slated for layoffs under a budget resolution approved March 23 by the school board.

Classified staff take biggest hit

The resolution stated more than 40 full-time-equivalent positions would be eliminated to reach the $12 million in cuts. More than half of the planned cuts were among “classified” staff: union-represented personnel including custodians, secretaries and paraeducators. The last group support students, including high-needs special education students, in the classroom.

The resolution calls for eliminating 24.1 full-time clerical or paraeducator positions, along with 8.6 custodial positions. Since most of the reductions are happening through reduced hours versus lay-offs, the number of people affected is higher.

Travis Tingvall, communications specialist for Public School Employees of Washington, SEIU Local 1948, said he has been in touch with the local classified unit’s leadership and they have “no comment at this time.”

The resolution also specified eliminating 10 “non-represented” employee positions. The district lists two categories of non-represented employees: “non-represented classified support staff” and “non-represented district-level administrator(s).”

Knock-on impact of cuts

The list of specific positions cut — and which buildings or programs are affected — is not yet available, Chastaine said.

Murphy explained that the district has not yet informed building staff about the cuts. That will happen through a “tiered notification system.”

“Basically, we don’t want employees finding out about impacts through a paper (news publication). We want to be able to communicate impacts to them first,” Murphy said. “Other staff that maybe did not have any type of reduced hours or days or anything like that, ultimately, there’s going to be an impact on them as well.”

Meetings with teachers’ union

Murphy also acknowledged that loss of support staff will inevitably impact teachers. District officials have been negotiating with the Peninsula Education Association on the impact of cuts, Murphy said.

The district will factor teachers’ retirements and resignations into the total budget picture. Some of those positions may be left vacant, but Murphy said that doesn’t amount to a reduction in force that would be subject to bargaining.

The full list of cuts will be presented in a personnel report to the school board on April 27 and will be available to the public then, Chastaine said.

The Peninsula Education Association president did not respond to requests for comments on the cuts.

Administration to be trimmed

Peninsula School District’s non-represented positions includes one list of miscellaneous supervisory roles such as aquatics manager, transportation dispatcher and radio station manager. Those positions earn salaries ranging from around $27 to $35 per hour. The group also includes executive assistants, with annual salaries ranging from around $77,000 up to nearly $96,600 per year.

The second list of district-level administrators includes positions such as managers, directors and assistant directors, executive directors and assistant superintendents. More than 90% of their salaries, based on position and seniority, are more than $100,000 per year. Executive director and assistant superintendent salaries range from just more than $160,000 to just more than $200,000.

The district’s organizational chart shows three assistant superintendents, five executive directors and eight department or program directors among top administrative staff.

Murphy said the budget reduction package includes administrative cuts, but declined to specify which positions will be reduced or eliminated. She said the district will adjust central administration proportionately to support the new staffing level in schools.

“We really looked at the number of positions and higher-paid supervisory, mid-level manager positions that we have, and we’ve right-sized that based upon our enrollment and like-size districts,” Murphy said.

Radio station’s fate uncertain

Spencer Abersold, manager of radio station KGHP, said last week on social media that his position will be eliminated. The district lists the radio station manager job among classified support staff.

The station, owned and run by Peninsula School District since 1988, is located at Peninsula High School and operates with help from volunteer hosts. The district in 2020 suspended broadcasting classes but allowed for community programming to continue.

KGHP operates on three low-frequency channels with a broadcast area that covers the Key Peninsula, Gig Harbor and surrounding areas. It also streams programming online, including many high school sports events. 

Abersold recently joined the board of Gig Harbor Now. He is also an adviser for Peninsula’s Key Club.

He has overseen operations at the station for 21 years and is paid $28.76 per hour, according to the district’s salary schedule.

Given Abersold’s public statement of his layoff, the district acknowledged it.

“While we are not sharing specific information about impacted positions, we can confirm what KGHP’s Spencer Abersold shared last week, that the radio station manager position will be impacted,” said Kris Hagel, executive director of digital learning.

Spencer Abersold, station manager of KGHP-FM, works in his office in 2022.

Spencer Abersold, station manager of KGHP-FM, works in his office on Thursday. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now

“KGHP is a community service that PSD has been able to support for decades, but with the budget deficit, the majority of the station’s funding must now be redirected into classrooms and programs that keep students competitive. PSD will keep KGHP on-air for the time being, and community volunteers may still host radio shows.”

Abersold said the news was “bittersweet.”

“I’m at a crossroads. Quite honestly. I feel very liberated and very optimistic about my future,” he said in an email to Gig Harbor Now reporter Ed Friedrich. “I’m remorseful about that not being able to continue. I had 21 years to do these things. It’s been a great run. I’ve just been very fortunate. I’m sad about losing that, in a sense, but I’ve got enough experience under my belt it will stay with me forever.”