Budget cuts force exit of Associate Superintendent

After 18 months, Associate Superintendent Markus Autrey parted ways with the Palo Alto Unified School (PAUSD) in late December. Autrey’s position, second highest in the District, included supervising and maintaining the education and services of students pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.

PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee, along with Director of Elementary Education Barbara Harris, Director of Secondary Education Sharon Ofek and Chief Student Services Officer Holly Wade, will divide up Autrey’s responsibilities at the District, according to McGee.

“Our budget shortfall is like gravity, it eventually asserts itself.”’

Todd Collins

PAUSD Board of Education Member

Autrey’s departure was initially kept quiet because it is not a practice of the District to announce employee exits to the public, according to PAUSD Communications and Community Engagement Officer Jorge Quintana.

McGee initially discussed options with Autrey soon after discovering a District budget deficit in June 2016.

According to Palo Alto Online, the deficit was a result of an approximate three percent drop in projected property-tax revenue.

The drop resulted in a total of a $5.2 million budget deficit, which was adjusted to $3.7 million due to a condition of the teacher’s contract that takes one percent of teacher bonuses when the property-tax revenue is at least 1.5 percent less than the District’s budget was planned on.

“It was a budgetary decision,” McGee said. “[PAUSD] had this budget shortfall, so we had to make some immediate cuts.”

McGee said he expects several more of these types of decisions to be made in the District moving forward.

“We are going to reorganize the District office, so we are going to have to eliminate more than one position here,” McGee said.

In the case of any cuts, McGee said that the District tries to reassign staff to another position to the extent that is possible. This could include reassignment to teaching positions if the person has the qualifications.

Autrey’s departure was an administrative decision, and the Board of Education was not involved, according to McGee.

New Board member Todd Collins said cuts to positions like Autrey’s are inevitable for the District.

“Our budget shortfall is like gravity,” Collins said. “It eventually asserts itself.”

According to McGee, some projects will take longer for the district without Autrey. This includes aligning class syllabuses and final assessments for all classes and working with the teachers’ union on a new evaluation system.

McGee said he expects to announce further plans for restructuring and any elimination of other positions in April or May.

“It’s difficult because it involves people,” McGee said. “People who have done a good job.”

Autrey did not respond to The Campanile’s request for an interview.

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