Heidi Sipe didn't sleep much Thursday night.

The Umatilla School District superintendent had just outlined a budget proposal that cut several positions, supplies and five high school sports programs in 2009-10 and beyond. The school board ultimately approved the plan that night.

The vote ended months of community-wide work to prepare the district for an increasingly grim state budget outlook - one that's likely to put a large hole in education funding and force similar reductions at other districts across the state.

"This has been an exhaustive process, and having a final plan in place is actually a relief," Sipe said this week. "Now everyone can work toward the same goal."

But that doesn't mean the work is over. One of the next steps is identifying which staff members will have to find new jobs, then letting them know and helping with that process, Sipe said. Positions lost for next year included 3 1/2 educational assistants, two high school social studies teachers and one English as a second language instructor. A student services data specialist will also be reduced to half-time. Who, exactly, those people are will be determined within 30 days, Sipe said.

A few other already vacant positions will be combined or eliminated from the budget. The district also plans to cut two summer cleaning staff, and reduce supplies and materials where possible.

Sipe met Friday with district staff to go over the same plan, which she said was taken extraordinarily well. The news was even good for some teachers who had been told their programs were on the list of possible cuts, she said.

"Everybody knew that these things were happening. There were no surprises," Sipe said. "For all but a few in the room, it was a sigh of relief."

Thursday's board meeting was bittersweet for Scott Depew. Now Umatilla High School vice principal and athletic director, Depew was publicly recognized as next year's principal at the high school. But the announcement was largely overshadowed by the night's budget concerns.

"The whole thing just moved so fast," Depew said. "One day we're talking about moving me into principal ... it was sort of a somber evening."

What might have otherwise been a celebratory night for him and his family, Depew instead drove home thinking about how to support his staff and students next year, he said.

Even amid the uncertainty, Depew takes some positives into next year. The high school has done well to keep class sizes manageable, and an increased emphasis on online classes remains a bright spot this year. That will likely play a major role in dealing with the staff reductions across the district, he said.

"We're going to have to get creative," he said.

As current athletic director, he said loss of five high school sports programs wasn't an easy one. Of the five sports cut from next year's budget - baseball, softball, wrestling, golf and cheerleading - he said some were already experiencing shrinking participation.

"Not only was it a budget concern, it was a survival concern for some of them," Depew said.

But not all reflected that trend. Depew counted baseball as a "program on the rise," and a sport he coached for 18 years in Nevada and Hermiston.

"That one hurts for me," he said.

Depew said the full impact of Thursday's developments hasn't quite sunk in yet, and probably won't until staff start mapping out next year's schedules and programs.

Regardless of what happens the rest of this year and next, Sipe said she's encouraged by the strong show of support from Umatilla parents and residents.

After the meeting Thursday, people began lining up to speak to Sipe. She expected more questions and concerns over the cuts. Instead, Sipe said she got offerings of appreciation for handling the difficult situation.

"I can't even describe how kind and generous people in our district are," she said. "I would love to not be in this situation, but being in this situation I can't think of a better place."

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