School leaders are pleased when opportunities arise to add teaching positions (FTEs) in a building. Reasons may include increased enrollment, funded programs or boundary changes. Those responsible for master schedules are pleased when FTE allocations remain the same from year to year. On the other hand, they are concerned when directed to reduce FTEs for the coming school year.
Why might reductions occur?
- Decreased student enrollment
- Students reassigned to a different school for magnet or pathway experiences
- District policy that teachers who retire are not replaced
- Boundary changes within the district
- Reduction of operating funds allocated to the district
- Increased cost of health or other benefits
- Pay increases within the teachers’ multi-year contract create a situation where the district budget increases are over a state cap or allowed by taxpayer vote
- FTE needed for mandated remedial programs without additional FTE assigned to the school
Perhaps the more critical issue is when the principal learns of the need to reduce staff for the upcoming school year. In some cases, administrators become aware early in the school year, before students have indicated their course requests. The information may be received during the spring if the proposed budget fails. Critical situations arise when reductions in staffing must be made immediately prior to the opening of school or, in some cases, as late as November if anticipated enrollment is not reached.
How does the principal make staff reductions in an efficient, equitable and transparent way? Department summaries are the managerial tool to cope with this critical problem. As illustrated below, a summary of student course requests becomes the basis for the initial organizational plan and subsequent modifications. Periodic updates are crucial for effective management.
A summary should be created for each department immediately after receiving student course requests. Ultimately, this document should be monitored throughout the spring and summer.
|Department||Course||Enrollment||Sections||Average Class Size||Weight||Aggregate Periods|
|Mathematics||H Algebra I||33||2||16.5||5||10|
|CT Algebra 1||20||(2)||(10)||—||—|
|H Algebra II||231||2||15.5||5||10|
|CT Algebra II||15||(2)||(7.5)||—||—|
|Tier III Math||24||2||12.0||5||10|
|162.5/ 25 = 6.8|
|162.5/ 30 = 5.4|
Explanation of Columns
Initially, this is the number of students requesting a course or level of a course at the time of registration. Enrollment numbers change throughout the course of the school year in light of new entrants, withdrawals, retentions and students who fail to meet course prerequisites.
The number of classes desired for a given course based on student requests.
Average Class Size
Proposed number of students per section based on initial course requests. Divide enrollment by number of sections desired.
A weight is assigned to each course based upon the number of periods per week a class meets
- 5 – daily for the year, equivalent of one period per day
- 10 – daily for the year, equivalent of two periods per day
- 5 – alternate day for the year or one semester on a daily basis
The total number of instructional periods dedicated to a course is reached by multiplying the number of sections times the weight.
Sum of instructional periods for each department. The total is reached by adding aggregate periods of each course in that department. By dividing the aggregate total by the number of periods per week that a teacher can contractually teach, the FTE for a department is identified.
H = honors
CT = Co-taught (co-taught students are already included in the enrollment total. The number of sections that are co-taught becomes important in calculating the Special Education department summary).
Suggestions for Use of Department Summary
- In the initial iteration of department summaries, decisions regarding sections and average class size should reflect the ideal for teaching/ learning objectives.
- If a reduction in total FTE for the school is needed, identify courses with the lowest average class size. These opportunities are likely to be found in courses with multiple sections. By reducing the number of sections of a specific course, average class size will increase but total aggregate periods for the department will be reduced. The number of teachers in a department will be reduced accordingly.
- A minimum number of course requests should be established to offer elective courses. If an elective course is to be dropped, students will need to be reassigned to another elective with available seats.
- Carefully monitor the number of requests of students who choose to participate in a vocational-technical program, work study experience or part-time college courses away from the high school campus.
- Where need exists, ask teachers to accept an additional teaching section in return for an agreed upon stipend. These stipends may or may not count against the FTE for that department, and the sum of the stipends offered to the staff may be below the cost of an FTE when considering salary and benefits.
- Using the number of CT sections in the example of the mathematics department, information is gathered toward calculating the aggregate periods for the Special Education department. Administrators should follow district guidelines for the cap on Special Education co-taught students within a general education class.
- Monitoring the number of co-taught sections impacts the availability of Special Education teachers to meet various student needs identified in the IEP. The total FTE for the Special Education department is based on CT, self-contained/resource room classes and other programs provided in the master schedule.
- After encoding the master schedule into the software program, the number of seats available per section of a given course could be increased. A class size cap of 25 could be increased to 28-30.
- On a long-term basis, consider reducing the number of periods in the school day. The greater the number of periods in the school day, the greater the number of teachers needed. A 9-period day (including lunch) might be reduced to an 8-period day (including lunch) as a result of staff cuts over a period of years.
- Although frequently a contractual issue, consideration should be given to increasing the number of periods that a teacher teaches within the school day. More staff will be needed if teachers teach 5 of 9 periods as compared to teaching 5 of 8 periods. The financial aspect of staffing a school cannot be ignored.
- A trimester schedule should be considered as an alternative to a school operating on a traditional 6 period day (plus lunch). In these situations, elective teachers are typically reduced, period length is often longer than required, and student opportunities to continue with college or career pathway experiences may be limited. In a trimester schedule the total FTE may not be reduced; the FTE may be distributed differently.
- Attempt to schedule all teachers for a 1.0 or full-time assignment in the building. Oft times, travel between schools is charged to the FTE of one or both schools. When licensure permits, a teacher may be assigned two different subject areas.
Those responsible for building master schedules find it difficult to make staff reductions. Regardless of the reason, reductions impact students and teachers. The department summary process should be viewed as a significant managerial tool. All professionals involved in the master scheduling process should monitor summaries on a regular basis from the initial registration until weeks into the school year. Effective use of department summaries brings a measure of objectivity and transparency to the challenge of staff reduction.