TPS cuts 142 teachers through attrition

Tulsa Public Schools will eliminate 142 teaching positions – a total of 270 job cuts – to trim the district’s budget by $8 million for the next school year.

The action by the school board is in response to state budget cuts. State revenues have fallen sharply due to lower energy prices and the shortfall for the next fiscal year could top $1.5 billion.

TPS officials think the cuts can be handled through attrition. The 128 nonteaching cuts include five assistant principals, 25 teaching assistants, 15 counselors and 68 library teaching assistants.

Future shortfalls for TPS could reach $20 million.

Some other changes include school hours and cuts in athletic programs. The latest round of 102 net job cuts is on top of cuts in central office positions that will result in $3.7 million in savings — $ 2.7 million that would directly offset state funding shortfalls and an additional $1 million in federal funding that would be redistributed to schools.

“We want to be sensitive to the needs of our teachers, students and families as we continue to manage this difficult budget situation,” said Superintendent Deborah A. Gist. “By making strategic adjustments to school start times, we can save more than $1 million in personnel, fuel and other expenses without affecting transportation services to the thousands of Tulsa families who depend on us to get their children to school each day. We are hopeful that Tulsans will be supportive of these recommended changes.

“We have taken a similar approach to athletics, limiting cuts to where it will impact the least number of students,” Gist said. “We will reduce expenses by consolidating middle school athletic teams and decreasing coaching stipends and travel. Moving forward, our district will continue to offer a robust athletics program.

“These recommendations are based on a comprehensive analysis of all of our programs and services, and we remain committed to prioritizing the needs of the students and families we serve,” Gist said. “There will be an opportunity for parents, students, teachers and community members to comment on these recommended changes.”

The schedule changes will reduce the number of buses needed and save labor, maintenance and fuel costs. An estimated $1,200,000-$1,400,000 is expected in savings.

Those time changes are:

  • Elementary schools: 7:30 a.m.-2:35 p.m. (starts 15 minutes earlier)
  • Combined middle school, junior high and high school campuses and magnet schools: 8:30 a.m.-3:35 p.m. (15 minutes earlier or later, depending on the school)
  • Middle schools not connected to a high school and alternative schools: 9:15 a.m.-4:20 p.m. (30 minutes to one hour later).

The changes in athletic programs, which should save $205,513, are:

  • Defund all 6th grade athletics coaching stipends; the district has not awarded these stipends for the past three years.
  • Reduce swimming stipends at all schools, with the exception of Booker T. Washington and Memorial high schools. Stipends would be reduced from a total of 36 head and assistant coaches to 8 head and assistant coaches. Only seven students would be impacted, and they would have the option to transfer to another school with a swimming program.
  • Eliminate assistant coaching stipends in golf, tennis and cross-country. District-wide, 71 students participate in golf, 74 in tennis and 241 in cross-country, all of whom can be effectively supported by half the number of coaches with stipends.
  • Change 7th and 8th grade athletics programs from grade-specific to combined teams at each junior high/middle school. Each school would have one team each in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball. The decreased number of games would generate savings by reducing expenses for game staffing, security and transportation. Both 7th and 8th grade students would continue to have access to athletics in this new team structure.
  • Cut travel expenses: No trips greater than 75 miles would be approved unless mandated by OSSAA district and playoff regulations. Booster clubs could elect to fund travel in excess of 75 miles.
  • Non-district contests canceled due to weather would not be rescheduled.

The cuts will also affect class sizes. The maximum sizes for classes will become:

  • Kindergarten through 3rd grade: from 22-23 to 26 in 2016-17.
  • Grades 4-6 at elementary schools: from 24-25 to 32.
  • Grade 6 at middle schools: from 25 to 29.
  • Grades 7-8 at middle schools and junior high schools: from 26 to 29.
  • Grades 9-12 at high schools, from 29 to 32. High schools would need 15 students instead of 10 in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes.

The new size limits don’t necessarily mean every class will be that large.

TPS rejected a plan to go to a four-day school week – a strategy adopted by Catoosa Public Schools next fall. Administrators decided not to close any schools.