Ten teachers retired and 12 teachers will be reassigned to new duties next school year, according to USD 231 communications director Leann Northway.
In the final weeks of the school year, which ended on May 21, teachers learned that some would be reassigned.
“Some of the reassignments were due to budgetary concerns,” Northway said.
School officials haven’t said the extent of the district’s budget challenges, but several teachers told The Gardner News they understood that without attrition some teachers would be let go when the school year ended.
“That’s all interpretation,” Northway said. “That’s not what was said.”
Instead, teachers and staff were told in a series of building meetings that some positions had been re-evaluated, and a re-assignment pool would be created.
Since then, all teachers in the reassignment pool have been transferred to other positions.
There are other indications that the school’s finances may be in peril. For example, at the end of each school year, a truck picks up documents at district buildings for shredding. There will be no trucks this year.
Additionally, some class sizes are likely to increase next year. For example, there will only be three third grade teachers at Madison Elementary next year instead of four despite a similar number of students in the upcoming third grade class.
Former school finance director Eric Hansen was released from his position earlier this spring, and an interim-finance director, Myrna Morrison, said she’s just started parsing through the district’s budget.
“I’m still analyzing the financial records and should be making some reports and recommendations to the administration soon,” she said.
She confirmed that USD 231’s budget will have some restrictions next year.
In the meantime, the Topeka Capital-Journal recently reported that the district’s bond rating dropped.
When The Gardner News inquired what a dip in the bond rating might cost taxpayers for the recently-passed school bond issue, school officials refused to answer unless newspaper staff submitted a specific Kansas Open Records Request form. (Requiring a specific form is a violation of KORA.)
“We will proceed with gathering the information and let you know the amount of time involved,” Northway wrote in an email. “Once the amount has been determined, you may submit a check and pick up the information at the board office.”
The district’s bond counsel, George K. Baum, and media relations with the bond firm, did not return repeated phone calls from The Gardner News, however, staff learned that a 1 percent change in the district’s true interest costs on a $72 million bond could cost taxpayers as much as $4 million on a 10-year note.