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SAISD Board Gives Initial Approval For Trimming Staff Based On Performance

SAISD board  Vice President Arthur Valdez, President Patti Radle and Superintendent Pedro Martinez in January 2018.
File Photo| Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
SAISD board Vice President Arthur Valdez, President Patti Radle and Superintendent Pedro Martinez in January 2018.

The board of trustees for the San Antonio Independent School District Monday night approved trimming teacher and administrator positions from its payroll next school year.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the district will lay off any teachers or assistant principals.

The board gave initial approval for a “reduction in force.”  According to district policy, RIF gives Superintendent Pedro Martinez the legal authority to make staffing decisions based on performance evaluations rather than seniority.

The number of positions to cut will be decided in the coming weeks, but Martinez said a worst case scenario would be a cut of about 5 percent of district employees, or around 350 positions.

Martinez said enacting reduction in force proceedings will help him keep his strongest teachers. The district has 272 teachers displaced next year due to programming changes and drops in enrollment.

“If there’s a teacher in a middle school grade that’s being phased out, I can’t guarantee them a job without knowing that I have the legal ability to make changes based on performance in another school, cause I can’t free up that space for them,” Martinez said.

Teachers union President Shelley Potter told the board that implementing a reduction In force will make teachers more anxious.

“We fear that declaration of the need for a RIF will create further anxiety among district teachers, who are already suffering from uncertainty and low morale,” she said. “Keep the cuts away from the classroom.”

Martinez said assistant principals and central office staff are more likely to lose their jobs than teachers.

For the past two years, the district has lost more than 400 teachers a year to retirement or resignation. If that happens again this year, it may be able to find a place for everyone who wants to stay.

District officials said the cuts are necessary because it’s expecting $31 million less in state revenue next school year. The district budgeted for a slight increase this school year, but instead saw its greatest drop in recent memory: a loss of more than 2,000 students. Next year, it expects to lose about 800 more students for a total enrollment of 49,969.

The board is slated to make final decisions about layoffs on May 14.

SAISD is required by contract to give non-probationary teachers a position somewhere in the district if they aren’t laid off at least 10 days ahead of the last day of school on May 30.

The North East, Judson, South San Antonio and Schertz-Cibolo-Universal Cityschool districts are also facing budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment. Schools receive funding from the state based on per pupil attendance.

SAISD won’t be the only San Antonio district with fewer teachers next year. North East ISD is cutting 97 teaching positions.

“We will have fewer students, so we will need fewer teachers,” said Aubrey Chancellor, North East’s spokeswoman in an email.  

Chancellor said her district’s board wasn’t required to vote on the cuts.

North East budgeted for almost 1,000 more students than it enrolled this school year, and expects to see almost 1,300 fewer students next for a total of 64,192 students. Chancellor said the district plans to dip into its funds balance to offset a $17 million budget deficit next school year.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.