Friday, 07 April 2017 09:29

Chinook School Division responds to challenges: announces nine lay-offs

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Chinook’s 2017-18 budget has experienced the greatest impact of all Saskatchewan school divisions by a combination of the provincial deficit, the educational finance funding model review and a reallocation of resources.

These factors have resulted in a 7.3% budget shortfall for Chinook, which translates into an over $6 million reduction in our funding. Most Division expenditures are in personnel and programs, which accounts for 71% of the budget. Chinook also had to absorb an additional $565,000 in teacher salary increments in the upcoming budget. With fewer financial resources available, the Chinook Board has had no choice but to look at major structural changes in order to manage these budget constraints.
Over the last several months, Chinook has done an extensive and thorough review of programs, personnel and supports in anticipation of the impending budget changes. The Board is continuing the effort to find financial savings without directly impacting the classroom; however, we still cannot prevent changes in supports and services from having an effect on students and teachers.
The following is a summary of changes and implications that are a result of the significant reduction in funding:
• The majority of staff reductions are a result of attrition through retirements and resignations, as well as relocating 25 teaching support personnel from central office back into schools. For example, some learning coaches will return to the classroom as teachers and youth workers have been offered open positions as educational assistants. Unfortunately, some of these changes resulted in a loss of position for 9 people who were laid off with notice and severance. The Board is pleased, however, that the majority of impacted staff have been reassigned.
• Out of an approximately $1.35 million in central office staff reductions, 43% were senior
administration positions.
• The Chinook Human Resources department followed a proactive communication process that included informational meetings with employee groups following the provincial budget. Once the budget was announced, consultations were held with individuals affected by the change to discuss options, answer questions and plan next steps.
• There will be some reduction in support services such as Speech Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Counseling, and Educational Psychology. Our HR department has reached out to other school divisions and the local Health Region with the purpose of helping to place some of the personnel who are affected. We are creating a new model for service delivery for students who require supports for this upcoming year.
• The actual budget impact is greater than expected and the Board will need to find another $3.3 million beyond the amount originally anticipated. The Board is reviewing future steps and has recommended using some of our existing reserve funds to mitigate the impact this will have on schools during the next year. Ministry approval is required to use reserve funds and we will work with them to explore options. The use of reserves is a temporary solution and is not sustainable long-term, but should help carry us through the next couple of years.

Even with fewer financial resources available, Chinook will remain committed to providing learning supports for our teachers and our students. We are looking for additional efficiencies in how supports are provided for schools, and anticipate service delivery adjustments in transportation and a review of teacher staffing levels over the next few years. Presently, Chinook schools still enjoy a very low pupil-toteacher ratio that is well below the provincial average and will need to transition staffing levels to be
more aligned with the rest of the province. Chinook will remain committed to continue making a positive difference for children, and students will be kept at the forefront.

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