Dozens of Jefferson County Public Schools employees will take pay cuts or be reassigned as part of a reorganization, passed in a split board vote Tuesday night.
Five board members voted in favor of a revised reorganization plan. Board member Corrie Shull and chair Diane Porter voted against, the latter of whom choked up with tears explaining her vote.
JCPS made employees cry and anxious awaiting personnel changes, Porter said. They faced potential reassignment, drops to a lower pay grade or fewer working days. “Don’t say it’s not a big deal,” she said, adding it could have been anyone on the board or in the district.
Students are her focus in board decisions, she said. “Sizeable” cuts to student assignment and special education teams contradicted that focus, she said.
According to a JCPS spokeswoman, 45 people will see some form of pay cut. Additionally, JCPS plans to cut 75 vacant positions and 17 filled spots, then recreate 157 jobs to be filled. Employees in collective bargaining agreements are guaranteed a new job.
Initially, 87 employees were slated to be reclassified down. But the proposal changed Tuesday morning after board and employee concerns. School psychologists and social workers, who were going to work fewer days at a lower pay grade or axed completely, topped the list of concerns. Any changes to those roles were removed from the proposal.
Initially, the move would have saved the district $1.4 million, reallocating those funds to other initiatives. The final plan saves $824,000 a year — less than 1% of the district’s $1.7 billion budget.
Impacted employees will continue to make the same salary for the next year before a reduction.
Around 21 positions are being reclassified to a higher pay grade, a move criticized by a school secretary in the public comment section. While some in lower pay grades would see minimal raises, these reclassifications amounted to 4% to 8% increases for some central office administrators, she said.
A full crowd of employees stayed at the school board until nearly 10 p.m. when the vote took place. Several walked out, with tears and red eyes, after the vote.
“They don’t care about the little people like us,” one said.
Potentially affected employees learned of the proposal in early May, a JCPS spokeswoman said last week. The district is required to tell employees about personnel changes on May 15 — less than 24 hours after the vote.
Multiple board members criticized the timing while explaining their vote. Others said communication in the district and with the board needs to improve in the future.
The cuts come as part of a larger push to reduce central office spending, moving money to student supports instead. Superintendent Marty Pollio said earlier this year he could reallocate $100 million in central office spending over the next decade. This move counts for $14 million of that.
Many in the district thought those cuts would come from top salary earners in the district, which have been derided for years as the “$100K club.” Instead, most of the cuts impact lower level employees — not cabinet members.
Division chiefs determined what to cut from their teams. They were asked to “realign” their teams for efficiency and to free up money for schools, a school board presentation says.
State law governing administrator tenure blocked Pollio from moving faster to cut spending, he said in January.
Within two months, state law had been changed — at least for JCPS. Senate Bill 250 lifted some of those restrictions for JCPS only. Pollio and his successors also got principal approval power and more control over the district’s purchasing. The new law goes into effect July 1.
The board quickly approved its $1.7 billion tentative budget immediately afterward with minimal discussion.
This article has been updated with new numbers from the district.