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School district cuts 100 jobs in cost-saving plan

Michelle Theriault Boots

The cash-strapped Anchorage School District on Wednesday announced it has cut 100 jobs under a major reorganization aimed at saving $4 million and beginning to tackle a $25 million budget deficit for the next school year.

No one was fired as a result of the job cuts, said district spokeswoman Heidi Embley. Rather, the district decided not to replace retiring employees or fill vacant positions.

Full-day classroom teachers were spared.

Instead, the cuts came from the district's roughly 2,700 employees who are not certificate-holding classroom teachers.

Positions eliminated under the plan include support staff such as special education teaching assistants, tutors, library assistants and school secretaries.

More than 25 percent of the positions cut were administrative staff jobs at the district headquarters, Embley said. Those cuts include positions such as a budget analyst, communications specialist, accountant and information technology supervisor.

The reductions are the first step in tackling a $25 million budget shortfall the district expects for the 2013-2014 school year.

More cuts, including layoffs, are likely as the budget process goes forward, according to the district.

"We're trying to do as much as we can through attrition but to get to $25 million there's not that many people that are going to leave the district (through retirement)," Embley said.

Future reductions will probably come from support and administrative staff, not full-time classroom teachers.

"There is a commitment to not laying off classroom teachers," she said. "It's not a guarantee but we're doing everything we can."

Still, reducing the number of employees in schools will burden the remaining workers, said Sharon Baker of the TOTEM Association for Education Support Personnel. The union represents district secretaries, classroom assistants and other support staff.

"Because a position isn't filled doesn't mean the work no longer exists," she said.

Last spring, the district paid $67,000 for an audit by the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization of the 60 largest urban school districts in the country.

Much of the reorganization comes from recommendations from the audit, the district said.

The cuts are the beginning of the district's effort to live within its means, said superintendent Jim Browder in a news release.

The reorganization, the biggest in at least a decade, comes in advance of what could be a bruising session of budget planning for the 2013-14 school year.

Next year's projected revenue for the district is $832 million, down from $885 million this year, said chief financial officer Chad Stiteler.

With inflation, the district expects its expenses to total about $25 million more than it receives. More money could come from the Legislature but that's not likely, Stiteler said.

About 90 percent of the budget goes toward salary and benefits, Embley said.

More than half of the district's 6,200 employees are classroom teachers.


Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.