With layoffs looming, Aberdeen School District offers new buyout incentive

Facing the prospect of teacher layoffs for next year, the Aberdeen School District is offering $10,000 incentive payments to senior teachers who commit to leaving their jobs at the end of the school year. The idea is that teachers lower on the pay scale would take some of the jobs, but some would simply go unfilled.

The offer is to teachers making the most money in the district — those with 16 or more years experience and either a master’s degree, a doctorate or who are close to getting a master’s. To qualify, they need to notify the district by Jan. 18 that they will leave after this school year. At least three have accepted it already.

District officials hope the program will reduce the number of layoffs they have to make.

Due to the McCleary Decision that alters how Washington public schools receive funding, district officials say they are in a budget crisis, and have to make a variety of cuts and changes to maintain basic operations and minimize layoffs.

The new “separation incentive” for certain teachers was unanimously approved by the Aberdeen School Board last Tuesday, and is just one way the district hopes to reduce expenditures.

“Obviously, we want to incorporate that information as we plan for next year, hopefully to reduce the number of layoffs we have,” said Superintendent Alicia Henderson.

The separation incentive only applies to those teachers with 16 or more years of experience and higher credentials and who make between $88,848 and $93,238 annually. Those are updated numbers since the Aberdeen Education Association, a local teachers union, successfully bargained for an 18 percent raise for teachers earlier this school year.

However, Henderson said some layoffs will need to happen despite the district’s various cost-saving measures. She added that “all areas” of staff will be considered for layoffs, and that layoff notices would be sent out between January and the end of February that apply after this school year.

Depending on how important a teacher vacancy is, some positions will be filled, but others could be covered by other teachers in the school.

“In many cases, if not most, we will be able to cover most of the vacant positions (with existing staff),” said Henderson. “I do not expect much hiring for next year.”

By adding the incentive program, part of the district’s plan is to save money by replacing high-paid vacancies with new teachers who would likely get a smaller salary.

The district has already taken some measures to reduce spending this year, such as eliminating funds for non-essential travel for things like teacher conferences, and not hiring for staff that left their positions after the school year began.

The district’s Budget Advisory Committee, which consists of 20 people who are teachers, other district staff and community members, has helped recommend what areas of the school’s budget should be preserved and others that are OK for the district to cut.

For example, a survey showed that 67 percent of the committee supported making some cost savings in special education, and 68 percent were in favor of reducing costs for the school’s post-secondary (college and career) success program. Henderson said the goal is to make these areas more cost-efficient without reducing the services available to students.

With the cuts that have already been made, the district is on track to save $1 million this year, and still needs to identify more than $2.8 million in savings for 2019-20.

The committee will have one final meeting (Jan. 9) to suggest cost savings before presenting recommendations to the board on Jan. 15. The meeting is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Aberdeen High School’s Community Room. That meeting is open to the public.