Wichita Falls ISD officials announced measures — including staff cuts — to help remedy an $8 million to $9 million hole in the next school year’s budget during a special meeting Friday.
The cuts include 25 higher-level positions as approved in a 7-0 vote by trustees Friday afternoon, following a closed session of about five hours.
Check back with www.timesrecordnews.com for more on this developing story.
Those losing their positions include exiting Superintendent Mike Kuhrt’s wife, Shannon Kuhrt, who is the director of assessment.
An agenda released late Friday afternoon indicates the School Board will consider more staff cuts during another special session at noon Wednesday in the Education Center at 1104 Broad St.
Savings and cuts
Acting Superintendent Debbie Dipprey set the stage for Friday afternoon’s solemn announcement of job cuts.
“The information that I’ll be sharing with you this afternoon regarding our current financial situation is a compilation of many discussions,” Dipprey said.
District leadership and trustees have comprehensively reviewed all programs, staffing patterns and budgets, she said.
“As we spoke about earlier, we agreed that we would address programs before people, and we’ve done that,” Dipprey said during the meeting.
Officials have identified $848,000 in potential savings in programs, she said. And in reviewing district budgets, they came up with potential savings of $1.076 million.
In addition, the district plans to find cost savings through the termination of certain contracts and reductions in a number of at-will positions, she said.
Officials will also closely examine vacancies with an eye toward potentially leaving them unfilled for the foreseeable future, Dipprey said.
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“All of these savings were not enough to bring us to the financial solvency that we are seeking,” she said. “So some additional measures have been taken in accordance with the reduction of the force.”
School Board Vice President Elizabeth Yeager then made a motion for trustees to determine employment areas to be affected by the RIF as a result of a program change, which requires several employees’ contracts not be renewed.
Yeager then read, one by one, the positions to be cut:
- Assistant director of federal programs — based at the Ed Center, $78,888 salary with $321 longevity stipend.
- Assistant director of special education — Ed Center, $87,737 salary with $1,575 doctoral stipend.
- Curriculum specialist for elementary English, language arts and reading — Ed Center, $74,795 salary with $500 academic stipend.
- Curriculum specialist for physical education/health — Ed Center, $68,727 salary
- Curriculum specialist for social studies — Ed Center, $76,231.82 salary with $350 longevity stipend.
- Special education specialists — five
- Instructional technology specialists — three, each assigned to help several campuses: $65,524 salary with $360 cell phone allowance; $69,666 salary with same cell allowance; and $66,464 salary with the cell allowance.
- Director of instructional technology — Ed Center, $99,427 salary with $360 cell phone allowance.
- Bilingual/English as a second language specialist — one
- Director of assessment — Ed Center, $93,091 salary.
- Elementary interventionists — three
- Secondary campus testing coordinators — six
WFISD provided the salaries of district staff members to the Times Record News in response to an open records request. The salaries for some positions that will be cut were not immediately clear Friday.
More:WFISD School Board to meet Friday to take up staff cuts
After the meeting, Dipprey said she could not comment right then because she had to handle personnel issues related to those who are losing their jobs.
She emailed district staff about 7 p.m. Friday to update them and provide some comfort.
“I know that today was a very hard day for each of you,” Dipprey said in the email. ” A Reduction In Force (RIF) is one of the most stressful challenges that a school district can encounter. It is heartbreaking.”
She said she knows staff members want information, and officials will share it as quickly as possible.
Their first priority is to provide information to employees affected by the reduction in force, Dipprey said in the email provided to TRN.
Reviewing probationary contracts is the next step, but officials don’t foresee a need to terminate every probationary contract, she said.
After they’ve addressed reductions among staff members with contracts, they will begin looking at the district’s at-will personnel, Dipprey said in the email.
Officials will not fill all of the many vacant positions across the district, but some must be filled, she said.
“It is our goal to fill as many of our vacancies as possible with current WFISD staff,” Dipprey said.
At the beginning of the 9 a.m. meeting Friday, trustees quickly went into a closed session with their legal counsel to talk over a reduction in force for a program change after hearing from former WFISD teacher Melanie Krotzer during the public comment section.
Independent consultant Gary Patterson, who has been working with Dipprey and other senior staff members, was expected to provide recommendations for cuts this week.
Patterson was present at Friday’s meeting but did not speak publicly before the board.
Considering more cuts next week
At Wednesday’s meeting, trustees are again scheduled to go into closed session to consult with their legal counsel about a reduction in force, as well as proposed nonrenewal of term and probationary contracts.
Also in closed session, trustees are to talk over the possible termination of certain probationary contract staff at the end of this school year.
And they will deliberate over the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the renewal of one-year contracts for administrators, teachers and professionals on a list from the administration.
In open session, the School Board is to consider and possibly make a decision about the proposed nonrenewal of staff contracts, as well as the renewal of one-year term or probationary contracts on a list from administration.
An enrollment decline
The need for budget cuts stems from WFISD’s loss of about 800 students since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
More:WFISD gets tough news about district’s budget, campus-level cuts likely
WFISD went into the pandemic with about 14,000 students. On March 31 this year, there were 13,321 students enrolled.
State funding is based on projected enrollment figures from the district, and the state is taking money back from WFISD since the number of students fell, Patterson has told trustees.
During an April 4 meeting, the School Board accepted Mike Kuhrt’s resignation, appointed Dipprey and hired Patterson.
Dipprey is guiding the district through choppy waters, but she has already said she will not become the new superintendent.
She was serving as director of secondary curriculum when trustees tapped her to fill in as acting superintendent. The School Board is expected to do a search for a new superintendent.
Kuhrt’s resignation is effective June 30. He stepped down in the wake of protests and objections about his plan for a reduction in force.
His plan included cutting math and reading instructional coaches from schools.
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Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news, politics and more. Contact Trish with news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Twitter handle is @Trishapedia.