The Nampa School Board voted Tuesday night to leave 27 teaching jobs unfilled next fall (15 secondary and 12 elementary.) The jobs are opening due to retirements and resignations. It’s the latest step in a year-long effort to overcome a $5.1 million budget deficit blamed on accounting errors. The cuts will result in larger class sizes. In fourth grade for example, average class sizes will increase from 26 students to 32 students.
But school board members rejected a measure to cut 18 more jobs by eliminating half of Nampa’s elementary counselors as well as music and PE teachers. That idea was unpopular with the more than 80 people who turned out for the meeting. Five spoke against it including teacher Amy Ackley who said she struggled when she was a student.
“It took my music teacher to hook me into staying in school,” Ackley said. “I went into teaching to help kids like me. When does a kid like me get their chance to shine if we take those things away.”
Mandy Simpson, a high school math teacher and president of the Nampa Education Association called the decision a victory.
“To provide a comprehensive education to the students of Nampa is a struggle when you don’t have the money to do it,” Simpson says. “But I think some great things were done to keep that with not motioning to vote on the music and the PE cuts and the counseling cuts.”
The decision was not a victory for district Superintendent Tom Michaelson, who brought the proposal. The meeting ended with his surprise resignation.
Michaelson did not give a reason but board chair Scott Kido says it’s likely the rejection of some of the cuts convinced Michaelson of something he had suspected, that the board did not fully support his plans to balance the budget. Kido says Michaelson did not have the full support of the board or Nampa citizens for the cost cutting measures he advocated.
“He was being attacked and criticized for the things he was doing by a lot of people,” Kido says. “Honestly it was not fair to put him through another year.”
Michaelson led the district for seven months. He had retired to Nampa after a career as a superintendent in California schools. He took the job after the former superintendent resigned in the wake of the budget crisis. Kido says he doesn’t know anyone who could have done the job as well as Michaelson. Nampa High School principal Pete Koehler will take over as interim superintendent.
The Nampa School District must have a balanced budget by the end of next month. The district’s financial director told the board there’s a long way to go yet but it’s unclear how much more needs to be cut.
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