Monday, March 08, 2010

MCPS Prepares to Cut Positions, Increase Class Size

MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast sent a memo to the Board of Education and an email to MCPS staff on Friday indicating his intention to cut 252 classroom positions in the schools, thereby increasing MCPS class size by one student per class. Weast is taking this step because he anticipates that his budget request will not be fully funded and the school system needs to begin planning its staff allocations for the next school year now. We have run the ugly budget numbers before and this is the first sign of many of their tangible effects on county services. No one is safe. The County Executive is due to present his operating budget proposal next week.

Following are Weast’s memo to the Board of Education and his message to MCPS staff.


Office of the Superintendent of Schools
Montgomery County Public Schools
Rockville, Maryland

March 5, 2010


To: Members of the Board of Education
From: Jerry D. Weast, Superintendent of Schools
Subject: FY 2011 Staff Allocations to Schools

This memorandum is to inform you about the preliminary steps that are being taken to prepare for the possibility that the County Executive and the County Council will substantially reduce the Board’s requested Fiscal Year 2011 Operating Budget. Our normal process calls for allocations for schools to be made during the first week of March for the following school year. In making these allocations, I believe it is prudent that we plan for significant reductions in allocations because of the difficult fiscal times we are facing. If we do not make this assumption and allocate positions to schools based on the Board’s request budget, and the County Council makes substantial reductions in May 2010, we could have to eliminate hundreds of school-based positions in early June 2010 and begin the involuntary transfer process at a time when teachers and other 10-month employees would be leaving school for the summer. We expect that these allocations will cause significant concerns, but the disruption will be far less than if we had to make these cuts during the summer.

Schools receive their staff allocations for the upcoming year on March 5, 2010. Principals have three weeks to identify teachers and other staff that have to be involuntarily transferred. Position vacancies will be posted by principals at the end of March. The job fair for teachers will be held the week of April 19, and the voluntary transfer process will begin on April 23. The voluntary transfer process will continue until May 28, 2010. At that time, the offices of Human Resources and School Performance will begin to place all involuntarily transferred staff members who have not been offered positions during the transfer process. Once all involuntary transfers are placed in a subject or grade level, the voluntary transfer process will reopen. The Office of Human Resources will then begin to hire new teachers from outside Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Previously, hiring began prior to June using the “open contract” process in which new hires were given a contract, but were not assigned to schools until all involuntarily transferred staff members were assigned to schools. This year, because of the uncertainty of the situation, open contracts will be offered in only a few selected areas of need, such as special education.

If we wait to reduce school allocations until after the County Council takes action on the budget, the allocation, transfer and hiring processes would begin three months later than usual, and it would be impossible to complete the process by August 2010, when school begins. The uncertainties and anxieties that this would create would have a tremendous impact on our schools next fall. The plan we have initiated is intended to make the process as smooth as possible given the difficult fiscal constraints. In the event that the County Council does not make reductions to the MCPS budget, it will be much easier to allocate additional positions to the schools in June than it would be to begin reducing schools’ allocations at that time.

In the operating budget that I recommended to the Board in December 2009, I included a list of possible reductions that might have to be considered if the County Council did not approve full funding of the budget request. We have used this list of possible reductions as the basis for the allocations that were made to schools this week. We have assumed some of these reductions, but not all of them. Some of the reductions would impact so many staff members that we would not be able to place all of them in positions in the fall, and some of the reductions would have required us to reduce the numbers of hours of employment for hundreds of staff. Although we may still have to make these reductions in June 2010, depending on the final actions of the County Council, my goal is to keep “Reductions in Force” (layoffs) and the number of staff who lose hours of employment to a minimum. But, this will depend on final County Council action.

Classroom teacher allocation formulas have been adjusted to increase class size by one student per class. This has resulted in holding 252 positions in reserve: 142 in elementary school, 55 in middle school and 55 in high school. These positions are in addition to the classroom teacher reserve that is held to address schools where enrollment increases result in an unmanageable number of oversized classes. In addition, 80 other teacher positions have been held in reserve. These include special program, staff development, focus, and academic intervention teachers and media specialists. Approximately 30 paraeducator positions also have been held in reserve. Furthermore, a plan is being developed to notify central services staff whose positions might be eliminated so that they may have the opportunity to seek positions in schools during the scheduled voluntary transfer process.

If we ultimately have to eliminate these positions that are being held in reserve, there will be a significant impact on schools. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Larry A. Bowers, chief operating officer, at 301-279-3626.

JDW: LAB: ndm

Copy to:

Executive Staff
Ms. Cuttitta
Mr. Ikheloa
Dr. Newman
Mr. Prouty
Ms. Romero


From: Administrator
Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 1:36 PM
Subject: A Message to Staff from Dr. Weast Concerning Staffing Allocations

Dear Staff:

I continue to be impressed with the exceptional work you do every day on behalf of the children of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Despite these difficult economic times, you have kept a positive attitude and focused on our core mission of preparing every child for the world beyond our doors. And the results continue to be impressive with student achievement increasing at every level.

I have spoken with many of you about the trying economic environment we are in and the budget difficulties we are facing. And you have shared with me your anxieties and uncertainties about what the future holds. I want to reassure you that our leadership team and I are committed to doing everything we can to preserve jobs and avoid layoffs, if possible. The unfortunate reality is that there will be painful cuts ahead as we work to balance the budget.

As you know, staffing season is just beginning. We have made the decision to make reductions in staff allocations this spring to prepare for what we believe are inevitable cuts. If we do not make this assumption and allocate positions to schools based on the Board of Education's requested budget and the County Council makes substantial funding reductions, we could have to eliminate hundreds of school-based positions in early June. That would delay the involuntary transfer process to a time when teachers and other 10-month employees are leaving school for the summer. I don't believe that is fair to our employees and that's why we are reducing the allocations now.

The most significant change in the staffing plan is the increase in class size by one student. This will result in the elimination of 252 positions - 142 in elementary schools and 55 each at the middle and high school levels. There are other reductions in the allocations as well, some of which are driven by enrollment fluctuations. Principals will be discussing the allocation changes and the involuntary transfer process with staff members over the next three weeks. Again, our goal is to be able to place staff members in vacant positions, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to avoid layoffs at the end of this process. If there is a need for layoffs, they will be implemented in accord with the collective bargaining agreements.

In addition to school staffing reductions, significant cuts also will be made to central services. Over the last two years, we have cut $18 million from the central office budget and we expect to make another $6 million in cuts. These will be challenging cuts and will impact the support we provide to schools, but they are necessary to confront the worsening fiscal situation.

I realize that this news is disturbing, but I believe it is important to keep you informed of the budget situation. The County Executive will submit his recommended budget to the County Council on March 15. The Council is expected to approve a budget by mid-May, which is when we will know what our final budget will be. We will provide further updates to you as the budget process progresses.

Again, thank you for all you do for our children. I know that, despite the additional challenges we will be facing, our staff will continue to provide the best possible education for every student.


Jerry D. Weast, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools