Nine positions at Durango schools recommended for elimination next school year will be reviewed by the 9-R Board of Education to see if members agree with the proposed job cuts.
Instead of approving the job cuts recommended by Superintendent Dan Snowberger, the board decided to review how the cuts were made and whether to support eliminating the positions at its May 12 work session.
Snowberger said the nine positions had been selected for nonrenewal before harmful effects of COVID-19 restrictions were known to the district. The nine positions will need to be trimmed from next year’s budget largely because fewer young families are moving into the district, and that is causing a decline in elementary school enrollment.
Since decisions to eliminate the nine school positions have been made, Snowberger said he has been warned that 9-R’s state funding for next year will be cut by at least $1.1 million under a “best-case scenario.”
The jobs selected for nonrenewal were made by individual school principals in consultation with each school’s Instructional Leadership Team, which includes teachers, Snowberger said.
Snowberger said the individuals now holding the nine positions, which included elementary classroom teachers, some secondary subject-area teachers and one social-emotional teacher at an elementary school, were notified their positions would not be renewed. Most were notified before spring break.
The district’s policy, he said, is to give notice to employees whose positions will not be renewed as early as possible so they can make plans and initiate job searches as soon as possible.
The nine school positions would total more than $600,000 in savings, largely from salaries and benefits. Salaries and benefits constitute about85% of 9-R’s budget, Snowberger said.
In addition to the nine school positions planned for cuts from next year’s budget, Snowberger also proposes to cut 14 administrative positions from the central office and six staff positions.
The school board voted Tuesday during a board meeting held on Zoom to review how decisions were made in choosing the nine school positions for nonrenewal. Virtual meetings are being held to adhere to COVID-19 public health orders banning large gatherings.
The meeting included emotional testimony from scores of 9-R teachers, counselors and other employees objecting to recommended school cuts.
Matt Ogburn, a fourth grade teacher at Riverview Elementary School, said before any decisions to cut positions in schools are made, the district should ensure that all waste has been reduced in the budget, any cuts are evaluated by a team that includes broad representation from teachers and the community, and that no decisions be made based on “go-it alone” decisions that fail to take into account the views of “multiple stakeholders.”
Snowberger said the administration now plans to bring the supervisors of each position to explain the rationale for cutting the job.
The district will refrain from hiring vacant positions until the board determines if the cuts are appropriate, he said.
“In the end, prioritization of these positions will need to be done by someone. In the past, that was determined by principals in consultation with their Instructional Leadership Teams – a group of teachers who are consulted on planning issues. I regret that the board made a decision not to honor the recommendations of the principals and supervisors on staff they determined to nonrenew,” Snowberger said.
Shere Byrd, president of the Durango School District 9-R board of education, said the process of hiring and firing is the responsibility of the district administration, not the Board of Education, under governance policies followed by 9-R and the school board, called “coherence governance.”
However, under state law, the board is required to approve or deny administration recommendations for teaching positions, she said.
Byrd added: “We have a number of new board members who take their responsibilities very seriously. This is the first decision of this type that they have been faced with and they want to make sure they understand the process that was undertaken before they vote to terminate a district employee. That includes a better understanding of who’s involved and the overall process.”
firstname.lastname@example.orgAn earlier version of this story gave an incorrect percentage of how much salaries and benefits constitute Durango School District 9-R’s budget.