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Bellingham school board moves to reduce programs, staff

District outlines plans to reduce more than 50 FTE certificated staff

The Bellingham Public Schools Board of Directors moved to reduce programs and cut 54.447 full-time equivalent (FTE) certificated staff across the district during an April 27 meeting.
The Bellingham Public Schools Board of Directors moved to reduce programs and cut 54.447 full-time equivalent (FTE) certificated staff across the district during an April 27 meeting. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Hailey Hoffman Visual Journalist

Bellingham Public Schools plans to reduce programs and cut 54.447 full-time equivalent (FTE) certificated staff across the district due to a $16 million budget shortfall.

Last week, the district said it expected to reduce 80 FTE, a third of that number factoring in retirements and resignations. The reduction of nearly 55 FTE makes up the remaining two-thirds.

One FTE is equivalent to one full-time staff member or multiple part-time staff, depending on the number of hours they work. Certificated staff are typically composed of teachers, librarians and counselors. The number of individual staff impacted has yet to be determined, the district said.

The district’s Board of Directors accepted the plan during an April 27 meeting.

Schools are currently working with staff to determine who will be laid off, whose contracts will not be renewed and who is willing to take a cut to their FTE hours status to meet reductions, the district said. 

A layoff of 54.447 FTE is the worst-case scenario — actual layoffs may be fewer, depending on if and when staff voluntarily resign or retire, according to the district. 

For classroom teachers, elementary schools will reduce by 7.2 FTE, middle schools by 3.65 FTE and high schools by 10.999 FTE.

The district will lose 7.367 FTE instructional coaches, 9.250 FTE literary and math specialists, 3.8 FTE elementary world language teachers and three FTE elementary deans. 

Nearly seven FTE librarians in elementary and middle schools are included in the reductions. 


“There is so much work that they do that goes unnoticed,” Jennifer Werner, a parent, former teacher and current substitute, said of librarians during public comment. Werner was one of a handful of people that spoke in support of staff during the meeting. 

“I’ve seen how they impact my children and other people’s children, and also teachers and staff,” she continued. “They don’t just check out library books. They connect with children, they aid literacy. They are, nine times out of 10, unofficial tech support for everybody.”

Throughout the meeting, the board of directors decried the state’s funding formula, which has resulted in a tumultuous cycle of cutbacks, then increases in funding, they said.

“I just find myself really frustrated at the bigger picture, and we’re not doing this the right way,” school board director Jenn Mason said. “It goes like [this] every year or something, and I can’t imagine working in schools and feeling that pressure.”

Kelly Bashaw, who’s been a director since 2007, said she’s seen many shifts and wants the public to understand the source of the issue — the state funding model — and where to direct their efforts to enact change.

“I expect probably another long fight to be able to then change the formula for funding and what that includes,” Bashaw said.

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