Nampa

151 teachers leave Nampa School District since end of school year

151 teachers leave Nampa School District since end of school year

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - A financially troubled school district in southwestern Idaho has lost 20 percent of its teachers in the past few months.

Nampa School District Superintendent Pete Koehler said during a board meeting Tuesday that 151 teachers have left since the end of the school year - far more than the usual 5 percent annual turnover rate. Koehler told school board members he will fill the positions with "highly qualified teachers," and people have applied for each of the vacant positions. Most of those applicants have between one and five years of experience, he said.

The district has suffered a series of financial blows since last year, when officials discovered about $1 million in overspending and that almost $3 million in one-time budget money had been counted twice. In May, a financial analyst discovered that $1.2 million went to general operations rather than repayment of bonds. The end result is a $5.1 million deficit that has officials looking at cutting costs by forcing teachers to take 14 unpaid furlough days and imposing cuts to long- and short-term disability, life insurance and supplemental contracts.

The Nampa Education Association has opposed the furloughs and will re-enter contract negotiations with the district later this month. The teachers' union and the district reached an impasse when the negotiation deadline hit earlier this year. The Idaho Attorney General's office has said that gives the district the right to impose its "last, best offer" when school resumes this fall.

Kristen Fields, a photography teacher who has worked for the district for five years, said she is expecting a baby in September. She fears she might lose her short-term disability benefits or the time she would normally use as paid maternity leave, depending on how contract negotiations end up.

"I mean if it were nine months ago, I would either not be planning to have a baby or I would be looking at other possibilities for positions," Fields said.

NEA President Mandy Simpson said the board and district administrators must collaborate and communicate with education stakeholders in Nampa or teachers will continue to leave. Negotiations resume July 18 and are open to the public.