Resignations Make Cuts Easier, School Chief Says -- Federal Way To Save By Downgrading Administrative Jobs

FEDERAL WAY - A rash of resignations by top Federal Way School District officials is being viewed as a boon to district efforts to downsize and "do more with less."

Tom Vander Ark, district superintendent, said he'll downgrade jobs formerly held by assistant superintendents and managers, and reassign or lay off their clerical staffers, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We'll try to share support staff," Vander Ark said, "and continue trying to find ways to do more with less."

While about $1.5 million in administrative costs will be saved with the changes, Vander Ark said $1.5 million to $2 million more probably has to be cut. He said he will be looking this week at options, including cuts to existing programs and "broad changes that impact staff." He did not say if that would mean layoffs.

Those giving notice they'll leave the district next month include: Donn Fountain, an assistant superintendent and the district's chief financial officer; Gary Nelson, director of planning and facilities; Nora Klewiada, human-resources assistant director; and Steve Schuman, assessment and evaluation coordinator.

Weeks earlier, Communications Director Judy Wall resigned after 14 years with the district, as did Kristy Nelson, district risk manager.

All of those positions will be filled by people making less and who have "a much narrower set of responsibilities," Vander Ark said. He said the district will save $90,000 on just Nelson's and Fountain's positions.

Fountain's successor will be a "fiscal-services team leader" instead of an assistant superintendent.

"One reason we're able to do that was in February when we reorganized, we created a self-managed work team out of all the support services," Vander Ark said. "They've become very self-sufficient."

Likewise, Klewiada's successor will no longer be a director but a "human-resources specialist."

Nelson's job was temporary until the district completed new-school construction, as it has this year. He is retiring.

Vander Ark said he'll feel the pinch, as well. He won't replace Leta Kremer, his assistant. Kremer is retiring after 27 years, even though her retirement benefits would be higher if she worked three more years.

"I've been thinking about it for a while," Kremer said, "and with all the changes, I said, `Oh, what the heck.' "

Fountain has taken a job with the South Kitsap School District. He said his decision to leave was personal, reflecting his desire to move from Olympia.

Klewiada has taken a position with the Bellingham School District, a promotion, Vander Ark said. Schuman plans on opening a consulting business.

Vander Ark, who was hired this year to reduce administrative costs and boost student achievement, said all the resignations were for personal reasons. "I'm happy for the folks that found job opportunities that make sense for them," he said.

Meanwhile, 97 first-year teachers, given layoff notices last week in the uncertainty over what state legislators would do with education funding, are likely to get notices their contracts will be renewed, Vander Ark said.