Staff reductions made districtwide

Due to ongoing shortfalls in the budget, staffing reductions will take effect across the district going the 202324 school year. Within the high school, a total of 8.5 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) are being reduced in the district’s effort to reduce spending by one million dollars. Of these reductions, 5.8 FTEs are teaching staff and 2.7 are non-teaching. 

The teacher reductions are quantified on a number scale and classified by department, with 0.2 representing an individual class period. Entering the next school year, the English and Special Education departments will each be reduced by 1.0, the Math department will be reduced by 0.2, and the science department will be reduced by 0.6. However, the Social Studies department will grow by 0.2 with the addition of AP Psychology, a highly-demanded class.

Despite the support of the newly-passed Operating Referendum providing an additional 5.5 million dollars each year for the next five years, the district cites decreasing enrollment and stagnant state funding as reasons for continued reductions. 

“[In order to compensate for the budget shortfalls we] would need [around] 420 more kids,” said Tim Kenney, SHS Principal. “The big problem is the state legislation, in their failure to fund public education like they’re supposed to. And now here we are in a crisis.”

State funding is enrollment-based, and the district has been seeing a decreasing trend in enrollment; the district references declining national birth rates as a contributing factor. 

“Our country is seeing lower birth rates,” said Michael Joynt, Director of Teaching and Learning. “So we’re just seeing less students enrolled in our 4K and our kindergarten programs. And it’s because there’s less students at that age level in Shorewood than there have been historically.” 

According to JoAnn Sternke, District Interim Superintendent, while the referendum allows for more flexibility in the budget, staffing reductions are necessary and would have been more severe had it not passed.

“…[Reductions] would have been one and a half times more, because right now we are looking to reduce by about a million dollars, and we would have needed to reduce by 2.5 million,” Sternke said. “We wouldn’t have done that all in staffing, but there would have easily been twice as many.”

While other districts struggling with insufficient state funding have been able to mitigate the problem of decreasing enrollment through expansion, Shorewood’s geography prevents it from doing so. Because the village is bordered by Lake Michigan to the East and the Milwaukee River to the South, there is minimal space for additional development.

“There isn’t new land for the population to expand. There might be some communities that more families are moving to, so you might see communities where populations are increasing for any number of reasons,” Joynt said. “The thing about a place like Shorewood [is that] it’s landlocked.”

Miriam Stevanovic, science teacher, and Jason Clark, choir teacher, are two staff members that are being impacted by reductions. Some teachers, like Stevanovic and Clark, are not being laid off, but instead face a reduction in the number of periods taught. For each class period cut, a teacher’s salary will be reduced by 20%. To Stevanovich, staying employed by the district was no longer sustainable due to a lack of benefits.

“I went from a 1.0 full-time employee to all of my high school classes being redistributed, which means I went down to a 0.4,” Stevanovic said. “It does mean that I would fall below part-time and also fall below the threshold for getting benefits. So no healthcare, no dental, no optics.”

At the middle school, the 7th and 8th grade choral classes will be combinated, despite having previously been kept separate. Clark harbors concerns that class enrollment may still change prior to the start of the 202324 school year, and decisions for reductions are being made off of numbers that may still be updated. 

“I know there are students who are signed up for other elective classes who don’t meet the prerequisite of experience to be able to be in those classes as 8th graders, but we haven’t had time to go over and correct those issues with those kids,” Clark said. “We haven’t really locked all this in yet, so it seems like it might be premature to make the decisions on our numbers when those are going to change.”

According to Clark, teaching staff members requested class enrollment information from district administrators, but have yet to receive clarity on those numbers. Clark believes that there was room for improvement in the district’s efforts to communicate with affected staff members. 

“I would’ve liked there to have been more transparency in the process,” Clark said. “I think there are opportunities for people to provide input and feedback, but if you don’t know what the questions to ask are or where things are headed, that’s hard to ask a question about avoiding information.”

Clark worries that the reduction of choir classes at SIS will have a negative impact on the district’s long-held reputation as having a specialty in the performing arts. 

“I do think it is sad when it starts to impact some of the things that we do here in Shorewood that have made it as unique as it is as a school district,” Clark said. “We have been known as a performing arts district for as long as I can remember, and it is unfortunate when the cuts come to a place where they start to affect those things which make us unique.”

As the school year comes to an end, Stevanovic plans on continuing to spend quality time with her students while simultaneously looking into her future.

“[My plan for the future] right now is to give my students the best end of the year that they can [have]… and continue to apply to jobs,” Stevanovic said. “There are other places that do need science teachers, which is fine, but it’s saying goodbye to that familiarity.”