The Kent School District's superintendent has spoken out after a controversial plan to lay off teachers sparked protests and had the teachers' union calling for his job. But Calvin Watts said his plan will improve Kent schools.
The district scrapped a plan that called for major layoffs -- in favor of a different strategy. Watts said his plan won’t just balance the books, losing some staff would put the district back in the black.
Watts says his recent controversial decisions are based in some very harsh reality. Just weeks after voters passed two levies to fund the district, Watts announced $18 million in cuts include 127 teaching positions. While the layoffs have been set aside, Watts said Monday that sacrifice is still necessary after years of issues in budgeting.
“We need to reduce costs as significantly as possible. Our staff is a significant cost and that's
what we are doing at this point,” Watts said.
Watts said he can get the district to a positive fund balance of nearly $2 million by August, but it would mean losing staff to attrition. “Our most invaluable resource, our people, they’re also our most expensive,” he said.
Watts spoke Monday at the first in a series of community forums. Many who came to the meeting Monday voted for the levies they thought would solve the district's financial problem by pumping money into the schools.
Tim Fiechtner said he did not vote for the levies and was concerned about how his tax dollars are being managed. “We were told that those levies would maintain the district but they're not,” Fiechtner said.
Watts said public pressure played a role in revising his decision on the layoff plan. “Any time we have additional information, it's smart for us to reconsider our options,” Watts .
Meanwhile, the Kent Education Association voted symbolically that Watts should no longer be superintendent. But Watts seems confident he'll still be superintendent for the time being,. “I am concerned about one thing, and that one thing is making sure the families we serve, the students who are attending school each and every day, that they receive high-quality instruction. That's the concern that keeps me up at night. That's the same concern that wakes me up in the morning.”
Watts has several more meetings with the public.
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