Eagle County school district could cut 50 jobs | VailDaily.com

Eagle County school district could cut 50 jobs

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – Teachers in the Eagle County School District dodged deep layoffs for next school year but some may still take a hit to the wallet.

An early draft of the teachers’ contract for the 2010/11 school year includes just shy of $4 million in cuts to teacher positions and pay.

If the contract passes, the district will cut 50 positions, trim the starting teachers’ salary by 2 percent and prune various stipends and bonuses.

Those are the results of nail-biting negotiations between school officials and leaders of the local teachers’ union.

An expected $3 million drop in state funding for next school year clouded those talks, officials said. Also, the district anticipates a $1 million jump in health insurance and pension costs.

Tanya Caruso, president of the local teachers’ union, described the negotiations as challenging.

“Having $4 million to cut from our budget – that’s a huge task,” she said. “And the biggest question was: Do we want to take a big salary cut or cut people?”

Although about 50 vacant positions will be scrapped, the remaining teachers will not see an across-the-board pay cut.

“I’m very pleased we were able to get our raise that we got last year, that that’s going to stick,” Caruso said. “I think the hardest piece was reducing our f.t.e. (staff). I know too many people who are getting nonrenewed for budget reasons and I don’t like it. That was a hard one but it’s a big chunk of money and we had to do something, either cut salary or that.”

Negotiations on one of the thorniest issues – health insurance premiums – will start in coming weeks, officials said.

The school board is expected to vote on a final contract in late May.

Here’s a look at some of the proposed cuts:

• Fifty vacant positions will not be filled. They include jobs left open through retirement, attrition and new teacher contracts that are not renewed. Forty of those jobs are in the schools, while 10 are based in the district office. The cuts will save the district $3 million.

• Starting salaries for new teachers will drop by 2 percent to $37,875. This would save the district 15 to 25 new teachers.

• Stipends for mentor and master teachers will drop by 10 percent. District officials expect to save $60,000.

• The district would cut 15 mentor positions. Those teachers would not lose their jobs, just their mentor status. That would save $67,000.

• The district will shift some expenses to grant funds. That may save $200,000.

• Career longevity bonus given to teachers who have worked for the district for 16 to 18 years will be eliminated. That affects about nine teachers per year and would save the district $150,000.

• Retired teachers who receive pensions but also come back to work for the school district on a part-time basis will see a 10 percent cut in their base salaries. The following year, teachers will be rehired at the starting rate for teachers, plus credit for their experience. This will save the district $125,000 next year.

• Supplemental pay for teachers who do things like coach sports or lead clubs will drop by 2 percent. This will save $25,000.

Along with those changes, teachers will basically experience a wage freeze, said Jason Glass, director of human resources.

The performance pay system for teachers will be different from this school year. Teachers this year were eligible for three separate bonuses – based on teacher evaluations, gains in student test scores and inflation. Teachers received two separate bonuses of up to 4 percent of their salaries for the evaluations and the test scores, and another bonus worth up to 2 percent for inflation.

Next year, the amount teachers received in bonuses for evaluations and inflation this year will be included in the teachers’ base salaries. Teachers will still be eligible for a bonus of up to 4 percent based on a combination of student test scores and teacher evaluations.

Cassie Harrelson, a teacher Red Canyon High School said cutting money from education is always hard but she thinks the results of the negotiations are fair.

“I’m a coach too and I’m going to take a little cut on my coaching pay, but everyone in the valley’s been taking a cut for the past two to three years, so I think they did it in a fair way,” Harrelson said.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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