UPDATE: Originally posted at 5:37 p.m. yesterday and moved up to reflect new information.

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Seattle Public Schools plans to slash 97 positions from its central office to cope with one of the worst budget shortfalls it has faced in recent history—a move it says was primarily made to save classroom jobs.

Other recommendations for plugging the gaping deficit include cutting elementary school counselors, full-day kindergarten, district-sponsored summer school, and imposing furloughs on everyone from district Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson to the school lunch lady.

Although the Seattle School Board will not vote on the budget reductions before July, it gave district staff directions on how to balance the 2011-2012 budget at a workshop last night. (The board can't do much until Olympia passes a budget anyway.) The proposed layoffs (.pdf) will by far bring in the biggest chunk of change—$8.3 million—to bridge the district's current $35 million budget gap. The district has yet to notify all the central office staff (mainly people who work at the district headquarters/John Stanford Center in SODO) on the proposed layoff list.* District Spokesperson Patti Spencer Watkins said that some central office employees may lose their jobs in spring, others will work through the end of August.**

The list of layoffs include approximately five executive directors and directors, 22 managers and supervisors, and 70 line staff (professional staff, office staff, etc.). Seattle Public Schools Executive Director of Finance Duggan Harman refrained from identifying any specific names or positions at a media roundtable today morning.

The $3.9 million that the district will get as a result of across the board non-instructional furloughs will save about 45 teaching positions (according to SPS, average teacher salary plus benefits is about $88,000).

Harman said that there was still room for modification in the district's proposed budget. "We are finding ways to increase revenue or decrease expenses," he said, adding that the magnitude of the shortfall was the hardest thing he had witnessed in his 19 years with the district. But the important thing is, "we have kept these cuts away from the kids," he said.

So far, the Seattle teachers union, the Seattle Education Association, doesn't know what to make of the district's claim that the proposed cuts would save teachers' jobs. "The problem is, the way the proposed budget cuts were presented makes it difficult to accurately know what jobs have been cut," said SEA president Olga Addae. Addae said she was concerned that the district had set aside nearly $11 million dollars for new textbook purchases and personal service contracts, areas SPS said it would trim back to prevent employee layoffs when it negotiated a contract with the teachers union last year.

*The district wants to stress that central office employees getting layoff notices are only those at the John Stanford Center.
**This post originally said that the district plans to send people on the layoff list pink slips by March. District spokesperson Patti Spencer Watkins said this is misleading because the situation is far more complex. "Any employees at central office who are NOT represented by unions and are being laid off will know that sometime in March," Spencer said. "A portion of these employees may be subject to mid-year lay off; others would work through the end of the fiscal year (August 31)."

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