The Payson Unified School District will lay off another eight to 10 employees at Monday night’s board meeting, Superintendent Casey O’Brien confirmed Thursday afternoon.
He would not release the names of those affected.
Ultimately, the number of positions cut will depend on the options individuals choose, such as retirement. O’Brien needs to cut $400,000 from the budget to solve the remaining shortfall.
All told, the district will cut $1.2 million from next year’s budget. The nine cuts made during the last board meeting accounted for $841,000.
School officials hope these layoffs mark the last, however, the district must contend with another $1.2 million shortfall if May’s statewide sales tax vote fails.
Questions have grown around several recent layoffs, including that of Payson High School’s principal, Roy Sandoval. Sandoval’s duties were given to Kathe Ketchem, principal of a much smaller alternative school.
“People can certainly argue the point of whether I’m right or wrong and I respect that,” said O’Brien. “Every recommendation I give to the board is made on what I believe is in the best interest of the kids.”
He added, “Politics plays absolutely no part in any decision I make.”
Others have wondered why the board announced such monumental decisions after a terse meeting and without discussion.
School officials say that because the decisions involve personnel, public discourse is impossible because of confidentiality issues. However, the board also did not discuss how lost positions would impact class sizes or district operations.
Two school board members interviewed for this article said O’Brien has ultimate discretion because it’s his job to deliver results reflective of the board-set mission, vision and values.
“You’re taking the superintendent’s recommendation,” said member Barbara Underwood. “We’ve got to be confident he’s doing his homework.”
She added, “You can’t second guess the superintendent. If you are second guessing the superintendent, you need to be looking for a new one.”
She said the board might have more vigorously discussed options had they involved programs and not personnel.
PUSD board member Richard Meyer said each board member has individually provided O’Brien with input, and that more people should attend board meetings if they want to be involved.
At the last board meeting, several people stood in support of either programs or positions, and Meyer acknowledged the input had no impact on those decisions.
However, he said their words could potentially impact the coming decisions.
Meyer said he has always directed O’Brien to ensure his decisions reflect commitment to the district’s ultimate mission and goal.
O’Brien said he wouldn’t draw conclusions from the dearth of discussion. Personnel decisions create awkward moments for the board, he said.
Underwood has repeatedly mourned the difficulty created by laying people off in a close-knit community.
“The fact that the board was unanimous last week just happened to be that vote,” O’Brien said. “If they want to have a board discussion, they can.”