When Davenport schools start for the 2019–2020 school year, there will be 83 fewer certified staff members than this year, due to mandatory budget cuts. The bulk of those staff members were laid off at the board meeting Monday night.
“I don’t have faith in our administration anymore,” Director Daniel Gosa said, from a phone-in line during Monday night’s board meeting. “They ask for our direction on what we want, and then they do the complete opposite, and then we get stuck under a deadline. … I’m getting sick and tired of it.”
Background: After overspending authorized funds for three years, the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) demanded the district make up the $13 million deficit in the general fund in two years. With the bulk of the general fund — between 80 and 85 percent, for most districts — going toward staffing, layoffs were almost inevitable, even with the district putting forth two early retirement incentives to try to stave off cuts.
In November, it was announced 83 certified staff positions would be cut to meet the district’s budget goals. The first retirement incentive in January saw 31 certified staff, two administrators and 26 classified staff members take the deal. After the second round, resignations and natural attrition, 72 certified positions were cut at Monday night’s meeting. Not all of the early retirees were positions that could be left open, which explains the difference in cuts.
Conversation: Vice President Linda Hayes said she was frustrated to see the certified staff cuts before the cuts in the administrative office. “To have those cuts without seeing cuts of people who never see students at all, I have a problem with that,” she said. “But I do support what we’re trying to do.”
Interim Superintendent TJ Schneckloth said the board had not yet voted on administrative cuts because there were deadlines required for the district’s front line staff. Specialist, administrator and secretary reductions are still coming, he said. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “It’s going to continue. We are going to get the number [of administrative cuts] we said we are going to get.”
“Everywhere we could, we realigned people,” Schneckloth said. “ … We tried to save jobs, whether it be with teachers, with secretaries, with specialists.”
The apparent “unevenness” of cuts across buildings was a concern for Director Allison Beck, who noted she wanted the changes to be “fair.”
Erica Goldstone, director of equity and diversity, said buildings were given a formula to determine how many teachers were needed to serve the building’s students.
“One building might already be closer to where they should be staffed, but another might be a little bit further away,” she said.
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The positions being reduced were decided at a building level.
“When the building received their staff numbers, the building decided where that would be,” Goldstone said. “ … That decision was not made in our office.”
In addition to the 66 probationary — first-year — teachers terminated at once, six non-probationary teachers had to be approved individually; Gosa was the lone no vote for both the bulk reduction and each of the six individual votes.
“I’m pretty upset about this, and I understand you have to deal with union contracts, but if you knew with plenty enough time the administrative staff cuts that were going to be made, you could have put those people out front so it didn’t just seem like we were just going after teachers,” he said. “ ... The more and more I talk about it, the more and more frustrated I get.”
Goldstone said the reductions were “not an easy process.”
“I have not slept well in the last three weeks,” she said. “ … This has been some really tough, depressing times. But we were given the charge.”
Next Steps: While there will be 83 fewer positions regardless, some of the pink-slipped certified staff could be called back, pending resignations.
Goldstone said there were only two resignations as of Monday, but it was still “really early in the season.”
“As we get those resignations — providing those are positions that will be refilled — we’ll call people back by seniority,” she said.
Director Julia DeSalvo said the district was going to learn from this.
“We’re never going to let something like this happen again,” she said. “ … Unfortunately, this is something we’re going to have to do every year, so we don’t face  people losing their jobs at one time. I would like that to include administration.”
During the district’s March 12 hearing to the SBRC, Schneckloth said the district would be saving $1.2 million starting July 1 from the pending layoffs of employees in administrative roles and the central office. While there is still restructuring in the central office that needs to occur, he said he was aiming to have those reductions made before the end of the school year — “sooner rather than later.”