• Kent School District to lay off 127 staff positions

    By: Ranji Sinha

    Updated:

    In Kent, the budget situation and funding for schools have led to some strange, worrisome and outrageous situations for parents. Many of them have been forced to wonder if Kent Schools have enough toilet paper for buildings, if teachers have enough supplies, and now those same parents are wondering if teachers will be there next year. A proposal was revealed this week to cut over a hundred teachers is not sitting well with many in the community.

    Last year, KIRO 7 reported on a $7 million budget crisis in Kent which they said resulted in a budget miscalculation. It prompted local teachers to ask for donations of toilet paper, copy paper and other supplies.

     

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    Nearly 200 people turned out to let the Kent School board know how they felt about the proposed cuts to staff and administration. Outrage is even more intense since voters actually agreed to pump more funds into the district through two levies that were approved. Parents, students and even some teachers who live in Kent, agreed to pay more thinking they would get more or at least maintain current levels.

    The district now says that is not happening and 127 educators will be let go

    Many Parents who turned out at the Kent School board meeting made their feeling on the cuts clear. They may have been angry, but dozens of teachers who showed up expressed frustration. On a day when students walked out of schools in protest, at least a dozen Kent Public School students walked up to the podium and questioned why the schools would make such drastic cuts, and also over communication about the cuts.

    One Kent-Meridian High school student, Zuheera Ali, lamented that communication came to her as a student and that she was the one to pass along the information.

    “I have to tell my parents that ...in every classroom now doors are being locked, there are teachers being fired,” Ali said.

    Justin Englund, a Kent student wondered if teaching would suffer if classes were overcrowded with 30 or 40 students thanks to staff cuts. “I’m deeply concerned that with ten percent of my school’s staff being threatened… that this diverse enriching classroom experience will be taken away from me,” Englund said.

    Brianna Kamran wondered if education --and tax dollars that fund it—are not worthy investments. “I guess I’m just wondering where is the levy money going,” Kamran said.

    Students aren’t the only ones angry over massive cuts that could slice the staff by nearly 8 percent. Mill Creek Middle School and Kentridge High School could lose staff, but the district said the latest cuts could help save the district $18 million.

    Leanne Strubel said she has two children in Kent Schools, and wonders if she was sold a false promise when she voted to approve the levies for the schools. “I want to hear where the money went," Strubel said. "I feel taken … I feel like they fooled me … they were dishonest with me I want to know why did you do this.”

    Teachers like Zack Stockdale said the staff is demoralized by repeated mismanagement for funds. “Every year they’ve done some weird thing, and this is going to save us," Stockdate said. "And now their latest solution is jam a bunch of kids in the classroom and get rid of some teachers.”

    The district heard loud and clear that the cuts weren’t welcome, but the Superintendent said in a statement these changes are simply part of the budget recovery plan. Stakeholders are forced to wonder how money is being managed, and whether public pressure will help change things.

    Christie Padilla heads the Kent Education Association and wonders if parents can force some reconsideration about the potential cuts. “Parents and community members have asked how can they volunteer or what can they sacrifice to keep this from happening,” Padilla said.

    After hours of public comments, Superintendent Calvin Watts did address the cuts. He said that he too was upset at having to make them, and that a public dialogue must start on the issue. He did not indicate that he would reconsider the cuts, but admitted that the community reaction to the latest announcement was a learning experience.

    In a statement released earlier in the day Watts said, “To make these tough decisions, we looked at the entire KSD system. When considering school-based administrators and staff, we looked closely at several factors at the school level including enrollment, program needs, student needs, and the unique needs of each school community.

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