PITTSFIELD — The city's public schools district plans to cut nearly 140 educators and administrators from the district's rosters to prepare for steep declines in state aid.
Superintendent Jake McCandless told the school board Wednesday night that the district does not intend to cut all of those positions, but the reductions have been set in motion in order “to protect the district, to protect the city, against the very, very worst-case scenario."
In a letter to the school community announcing the reductions, he said it could be late July or August before the district how much Chapter 70 education funds it will receive from the state, an allocation that makes up about 64 percent of its annual budget.
District officials are estimating state aid will decline somewhere from 5 to 10 percent. According to McCandless, a 5 percent drop in state education funds would require another $2.5 million in budget cuts.
A 10 percent drop in state funds would create a $5 million funding gap, and represents the “worst-case scenario” for which McCandless is preparing by moving to reduce district rosters. He said “an unholy number” of contractually obligated notifications have or will soon be sent to educators and administrators informing them that, for now, they do not have a job at the district next year.
He said in his announcement earlier Wednesday that “we hope and we pray that this very worst-case scenario does not come to pass and that these non-renewals will be taken back as quickly as possible.”
The district has notified 70 educators who do not have professional teaching status and were hired on one-year contracts that their employment ends at the conclusion of the school year, said McCandless. The district anticipates eliminating 10 to 12 administrative positions.
On Friday, another 50 to 60 “reduction in force” notices will be sent to all first-year educators who are licensed in their field, and who started before Oct. 1, 2019, he said. Some more senior educators with professional teaching status could also receive force reduction notices that McCandless told the school community “we hope to not enact, but we will not know until deeper in the summer.”
Reducing the district’s ranks by nearly 140 educators and administrators “gets us closer to the worst-case scenario” for a 10 percent cut to Chapter 70 funding, he said.
McCandless said today’s City Council hearing on the school department's level-funded $65 million budget proposal will mark the first time in his career that he will stand before an executive committee and present a budget without knowing state aid levels.
At the school board meeting, he called on the state to send education aid to communities such as Pittsfield, where cuts are felt disproportionately compared to wealthier communities.
“Our real hope and our real confidence in the commonwealth is that, in spite of unprecedented economic challenges, they will indeed be fair and be equitable,” he said.