The Albany County School District Board of Trustees is updating its reduction in force policy while also urging state lawmakers to avoid further cuts to education.
During a meeting Wednesday evening, the board approved a second reading of the updated policy, which outlines the process by which the number of certified employees may be reduced. The policy states that attrition is the preferred method of reducing employee numbers. “However, in certain cases, normal attrition may not be sufficient to achieve necessary reduction in force,” the policy says.
The policy says teachers on their initial contract in areas identified for reduction would be the first to have their positions eliminated, followed by teachers on a continuing contract who can’t be otherwise reassigned. Priority for retention would be given for total years of experience, longevity in the district and positive written evaluations.
Administrative and classified employees have annual contracts, so the policy doesn’t apply to them.
Superintendent Jubal Yennie said the policy exists to guide the board, district administration and other stakeholders should the need arise.
“I’ve never had to use a reduction in force policy,” he said.
Administrators and the board are continuing to solicit feedback about the policy during the next few weeks before the board considers final adoption.
“We’ll clean this policy up and align with statute and also make it a policy that we can actually use, and then I think we can put it away and never see it again, is my full desire,” Yennie said.
Meanwhile, in September, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration requested feedback from school district trustees about how the state’s estimated budget gap would affect their operations.
The Wyoming Legislative Service Office has estimated that the School Foundation Program Account will have a funding gap of $515 million for the 2021-22 biennium, which is 16 percent of its estimated funding. That number grows to $915 million, or 27 percent, for the 2023-34 biennium.
The Albany County Board responded with a letter last month stating that such cuts would render the district “incapable of delivering quality, equitable education to the children in our community as the Wyoming Constitution requires.”
The letter says about 85 percent of the district’s budget is used for personnel, while much of the rest consists of non-discretionary expenses such as utilities and insurance. Thus, such budget cuts would lead to a reduction of support staff, result in increased classroom sizes and necessitate eliminating electives.
Cuts would create more obstacles for struggling students, hamper pathways for students to earn the Hathaway Success Scholarship and diminish the local economy, the letter says.
“We had a discussion as a board and talked about how debilitating the legislature’s proposed funding cuts would be to our ability to, as a district, deliver a quality, constitutional education to the children of Albany County,” said board member Nate Martin. “Hopefully the letter communicates to our legislative delegation and to the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration the dire nature of the consequences of what they’re looking at.”
The letter urges the state committee to seek new revenue streams before continuing to cut education funding.