Yelm district makes hundreds of cuts after board approves reduction plan

Community calls for classroom protection amid levy failure


At least 200 positions at Yelm Community Schools will be cut, and more reductions in force are set to come next week as the school board unanimously approved its reduced education plan on Thursday, May 9.

Superintendent Chris Woods described the new period as the toughest thing the district would ever have to endure. This began with an RIF of classified staff and teachers. The reductions were a result of the district’s attempts to cut $15 million in order to balance its budget for the 2024-25 school year after its educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy failed on both attempts.

“There’s no way we can get to $15 million without reducing positions in our district,” Woods said during the meeting. “When 85% of our budget is people, there’s no way we can get to $15 million with 15% of our budget.”

Notices were sent to both classified staff and teachers to inform them of their change in employment last week. While not every position can be replaced immediately, Woods said the district’s goal is to bring back as many employees as possible, perhaps in a different role where their qualifications fit.

Hundreds of teachers, educators, parents and community members attended the meeting with signs that read, “Keep cuts out of the classroom.” Yelm Education Association co-Presidents Kathryn Cullum and Tasha Johnson echoed this call to action when they spoke in front of the board and their peers.

“What we’re asking for is that you maintain an environment that is conducive to learning,” Cullum said. “The only way that we make any progress is through support in the buildings, through restorative specialists, social workers, counselors, assistant principals, community outreach, psychologists and so on.”

Johnson added that the district is already understaffed, citing YCS and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) research that reported that the district hires 21 fewer teachers than the state funds.

“How can we possibly justify cutting into school-based positions given that we’re already understaffed? Why are we not looking at the central office? If you look around at these people right now, there are livelihoods, people’s jobs, mortgages, people have had babies, and they’re asking themselves if they are going to be able to provide for their family next year,” Johnson said.

According to Citizens for Support of Yelm Schools, the reductions have impacted art, music, technology, library services, band and numerous electives, as well as English, science and math teachers. Staff who had served YCS for over a decade also received notices last week, which was Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States.

The list of affected positions was not made public by the district, nor were future reductions potentially impacting administrators, coaches or extracurricular programs. Woods said the decision to somehow choose what is least important is necessary and that he hopes community members “stop tearing others down on social media so we can figure this out.”

The Prairie Elementary Parent Teacher Organization’s Facebook page posted on Friday, May 10, that 14 of its teachers and paraprofessionals were given their notice that “they would no longer have a job in our district next year.” Shortly after receiving their notices, Prairie staff put on an assembly for its students “while tears were still in their eyes,” the post said.

YCS will host a community forum at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 16, at Yelm Middle School to provide feedback from its reduced education plan priorities survey, which had gathered about 1,200 responses as of Thursday, May 9.

Citizens for Support of Yelm Schools introduced two new initiatives — Parents of Yelm and Alumni of Yelm — on Monday, May 13, to accept donations ahead of the upcoming school year. The initiatives aim to support the district through sponsorships from local businesses and donations from community members. To learn more, visit

The district’s next school board meeting will be at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 23, at the district office.