KPBSD holds back on open positions

On the surface, it looks like the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District isn’t hiring, but uncertainty surrounding next year’s budget has the district posting positions with caution.

“The big thing is that we have 30 positions that are on hold right now all around the district,” district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff said. “We’re holding (them) until we know what the funding is going to be.”

“There are two scenarios. One is that there is a big decrease in education funding, in which case we wouldn’t be able to fill those positions so, we might be able to shift people around. If the funding does go though, we can open up those positions and fill them,” she said.

Currently, the district is hiring for a “couple of hard-to-fill positions,” Erkeneff said. These include teachers in the Russian Old Believer village schools and special education roles.

There are 30 other positions, including a variety of teaching and support staff positions, that could be filled for the 2018 school year, Erkeneff said, but with the potential for a 5 percent cut to the Base Student Allocation coming from the Alaska Senate and Kenai Peninsula Borough funding still unknown on top of a $3.4 million deficit, the district administrators don’t know if they can afford to fill the positions.

“I understand the district’s position for holding out on hiring all of those positions, because there’s so much uncertainty from the Legislature at this point. … Right now, the district has to pass a budget without knowing how much money they’re going to have in revenue … which makes it very difficult for them to know how much they can spend,” said David Brighton, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association.

But, as the district waits for financial security, job applicants aren’t waiting for job security.

“The real downside is, the longer you wait to hire teachers in the spring, the harder it is to hire good teachers because all the best teachers get jobs right away,” Brighton said.

To alleviate part of the district’s $3.4 million deficit, the fiscal year 2018 budget calls for the elimination of 30 positions including an account specialist, several custodial positions, a pupil district coordinator and five full-time unallocated positions, which are budgeted for, but only utilized if there is a unexpected increase in enrollment at the start of the school year.

The district also adjusted its pupil to teacher ratio at the high schools, Erkeneff said.

“We’ve already reduced 30 positions … but we’re hoping that we can fill these open positions and not have to do involuntary transfers,” Erkeneff said.

Despite these reductions, the district was able to issue contracts after receiving the Board of Education’s approval at the April 3 meeting.

“We have been able to issue our non-tenure contracts, which is a good thing because we’ve invested in our teachers and want them to stay,” Erkeneff said.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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