School district cuts 12 teaching jobs

June 11

Attach names to the numbers.

Teachers have been informed of who will lose their jobs because of $1.3 million in budget cuts the Hood River County School District needs to make.

As expected, elementary physical education specialists Randy Yoshimura of Westside, Sarah Raab of Parkdale, and Stephanie Perkins of May Street will be out of work.

They have been with the district 16, 10, and seven years.

The likelihood of cutting elementary and PE positions to make up the shortfall was spelled out as a distinct reality following the loss on May 18 of the $1.3 million Local Option Levy.

The School Board chose in a special meeting to eliminate a total of 12 full-time teaching positions in the district, rather than cut four days of school, another prominent budget reduction considered by the district administration and the board. The decision followed many hours of meetings and discussions with staff, administrators, and parents.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time we have had to significantly implement the RIF article (in the district employment contracts,)” assistant superintendent Rick Eggers told the School Board Wednesday.

RIF stands for “Reduction in Force,” a complicated contractual process in which teachers and employees with seniority and appropriate teaching qualifications are allowed to replace, or “bump” another teacher.

Retirements and resignations also factor into the RIF scheme. (The classified employees’ RIF process is still underway and will be reviewed by the School Board on June 23.)

The primary example of bumping among teachers is that of music teacher Alan Taylor, with 22 years, who replaces Dennis Hillen of Wy’east. Hillen, with 17 years, is the senior teacher to lose a job in the district. Taylor will teach at Wy’east and Hood River Middle schools.

Under the elementary music and PE cuts, music teacher Kathy Hannen-Smith, of Parkdale and Mid-Valley, also lost her job, as did her counterpart at May Street, Sydney Stevens-Litt. Hannen-Smith has 18 years’ experience, and Stevens-Litt has three.

Retaining positions with the district are elementary music teacher Kim Kublank, who becomes a half-time kindergarten teacher at Westside, and Fran Rabaliati, 18-year PE teacher from Pine Grove, who will take a half-time kindergarten job at Mid Valley.

Spanish teacher Jodie Deignan of Cascade Locks and high school art teacher Steve Labadie have also been cut, as has Hood River Middle School technical education teacher Tom Kost and School-to-Work specialist John Vann of the high school’s Summit Career Center. Vann’s job was eliminated, and Kost was bumped by Tim Pruitt, now at Wy’east.

Rob Johnston of Cascade Locks, the least senior PE teacher, is out of a job after one year with the district, having been bumped by Ed Goin, a 26-year veteran currently at Mid-Valley. (Johnston lost his job through RIF a year ago in the Lebanon School District.)

It fell to Eggers and Superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady to personally inform the teachers whose jobs had been cut.

Eggers told the board Wednesday that it was a bittersweet experience.

“At the end of the day, I commented to Pat that we work with wonderful people. These people (who lost jobs) had every reason to be angry and frustrated. But they responded in the most professional manner,” he said. “Their response typically was, ‘What can I do to facilitate the transition?’,” Eggers said. “They are most interested in the children.”

Evenson-Brady noted that in order to restore all cuts, 13 days of school would have had to be cut. Cutting four days of school would have bought back 30 percent of the cuts ($400,000 of $1.3 million) or about half of the elementary PE and music positions.

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