The Vashon Island School District’s (VISD) Business and Human Resources Departments are currently undergoing a review, led under advice by the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA).
Superintendent Slade McSheehy says the review process is a first step toward developing a solvency plan for the district, which is dealing with declining enrollment, a lack of state funding and the end of federal pandemic relief funding that is currently being used to pay for some personnel costs. .
McSheehy announced he had engaged WASA’s consulting services at a July 28 school board meeting, but did not name the consultant who would work on the project.
In an interview with The Beachcomber last week and in a community email sent on Tuesday, McSheehy shared more details, confirming that he had accepted WASA’s recommendation of Jacob Kuper to conduct the review – work that will be done. remotely, McSheehy said, with only one scheduled site visit.
Kuper is the former longtime chief financial officer of the Issaquah School District, whose contract was not renewed this spring after serving 18 years with the district. At the time, Issaquah School District spokeswoman Lesha Engels told the Issaquah Daily that the district had not “and will not have a statement” on Kuper’s non-renewal of contract.
In August 2021, Kuper made news when he shared his views on COVID mandates on social media, responding from his personal Facebook account to a masking PSA posted by the Department of State of health.
In the post, Kuper wrote, “What’s the endgame with all this? Masks, vaccines and limitation of freedoms for how long? My family has been in Washington for seven generations and this is the first time in my life that I have despised this state.
Kuper’s post continued, “It only took 200 years to get rid of smallpox. Let the virus go rampant and run its course, it’s here to stay. So happy for the strictest COVID-19 mandates in the United States. I thought liberals were freedom loving…and pro-choice…oh wait.
At the time, the Seattle Times, KUOW and other local outlets reported on Kuper’s rant on social media, and the story was picked up nationally by the New York Post.
According to the Seattle Times, the opinions expressed by Kuper alarmed a group of parents in Issaquah, who said his statements caused them to wonder how well the district would implement COVID-19 protections. The Times also reported that Kuper was involved in labor negotiations for the school district — negotiations that included health and safety terms for staff members.
Asked to comment on Kuper’s online statements, McSheehy declined, instead defending his qualifications to serve as WASA’s consultant to VISD.
“I don’t follow people’s personal opinions,” McSheehy told The Beachcomber, detailing WASA’s strong recommendation to Kuper and his long tenure as a top finance official at Issaquah, during which McSheehy said Kuper oversaw 18 perfect state audits of this district. finance. “We are more concerned about his qualifications to review our practices and make a set of recommendations that we will submit to our fiscal advisory board that will impact the solvency plan that we will present to the board in late October or early November.”
The review follows the resignation of Matt Sullivan, who served as the district’s executive director of business and operations for the past eight years (see this page).
The review, which will cost the district approximately $6,600, will result in a report that will be submitted to VISD in early October. According to a contract signed by WASA and McSheehy on July 28, the report will assess the budgeting practices, staffing and resource allocation of business and human resources departments against those of similarly sized districts, as well as the capabilities of departments to meet state and federal requirements.
Asked why these two departments were chosen for review, McSheehy said 80% of the district’s costs go into staffing, which falls under the purview of the human resources department. The rest of the district’s expenses, for miscellaneous operating costs, are overseen by the commercial department.
“It’s a full district review because all umbrellas [under those departments],” he said.
Kuper, he said, would make recommendations that would be helpful to VISD in terms of long-term planning.
When asked if he had ever worked with Kuper in the past, McSheehy said no.
“We had preliminary phone calls,” he said. “He’s in an information-gathering phase right now.”
In recent years, the Issaquah School District, under Kuper’s financial leadership, has responded to budget shortfalls by offering to significantly cut programs and staff.
According to King 5 News. In April, voters approved a levy for the district that included a pledge to continue funding mental health support programs.
A year earlier, in 2021, the school board also approved a major RIF package, according to King 5 reports, which initially proposed layoffs for nearly 300 district employees to help address a projected $36.7 shortfall. — a decision school board members have championed as “right-sizing” district staff to accommodate declining enrollment.