Juneau School District restores some staff cuts

Juneau’s School Board has restored some jobs and programs slated for cuts. But other positions on the chopping block will still be eliminated.

The board voted Tuesday to fund the top six items on a long list of reductions. All were threatened by a budget shortfall. A last-minute, one-time legislative funding boost allowed the jobs to be restored.

David Means is the district’s administrative services director.

“That included restoring the elementary cultural para-educators, elementary specialists, restoring five teaching positions for our classrooms across the district, two middle school counselors and our drug testing program,” Means says.

He says remaining cuts will include administrative positions, custodians, and some classroom staff.

Cuts would have totaled $5.8 million without the extra state money. But School Board President Sally Saddler says the extra $1.2 million just isn’t enough.

“Well, I’d like to say I feel relief, but it’s difficult to feel relief when we’re still laying off over 50 people. The money is just not there to continue all the fine things that we’re doing for our students,” Saddler says. “And while it’s great that we’re able to add back the 13 or so positions, you have to keep in mind that we’re still cutting $4.4 million from our budget.”

The district’s total spending plan for the next fiscal year is around $92 million.

Saddler says she knows the cuts disappoint many parents.

“People are advocating for art, they’re advocating for the truancy officers, they’re advocating for the nurses who serve the students. Each and every one of those positions is important,” she says. “And so it’s really all about having to make a Sophie’s Choice. Which of these programs is closest to the classroom and can benefit the most students, when the reality is all students are benefiting from these programs we’re cutting.”

Saddler says school expenses continue to rise at the same time state and federal funding has gotten smaller.

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