Archive for Thursday, March 25, 2010

School board hears budget-cutting numbers

On Monday night, the Baldwin School Board held a work session with the fact-finding committee. The two groups discussed the information in the committee's 205-page report.

On Monday night, the Baldwin School Board held a work session with the fact-finding committee. The two groups discussed the information in the committee's 205-page report.

March 25, 2010

On Monday night, numbers were finally presented by the Baldwin School District fact-finding committee’s report.

The possible savings on drastic changes — if needed because of additional funding cuts from the state — to the district were released at the special school board work session. The fact-finding committee researched seven areas where the district could save money if large cuts had to be made. That research and information was given in a 205-page report.

“I’ve been on the board for six years and I’ve wanted this for a long time,” Board Member Scott Lauridsen said after the meeting.

The seven items on the report are four-day school week, elementary attendance centers, closing one elementary school, closing two elementary schools, transportation, activities and administration organization. While the committee members skimmed over their area of knowledge, the only possible savings considerations came from the four-day school week, elementary attendance centers or closing one or two elementary schools.

“We got some data about how these proposed changes would impact the district from a financial perspective,” Lauridsen said. “That’s the first question you need to ask when talking about budget. The second question is how does it impact the education of our students.”

The largest possible savings would happen if the district closes both Marion Springs and Vinland Elementary Schools. If both rural schools are closed, the maximum the district could save is around $425,000. However, the minimum is $120,000.

Dan Wallsmith, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center principal, said the difference between the two figures depends on how much staff is cut from the elementary schools. Now that the price tag was released, Board Members Bill Busby and Lauridsen wanted to know if the students from MSES and VES could fit into the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and BESIC.

“Are we shoehorning kids in or do we have enough room if we grow in the next couple of years?” Lauridsen asked Wallsmith. “That’s a hard one to portray, I know.”

Deb Ehling-Gwin, BESPC principal, said her new building, which is set to open next school year, is built to hold 480 students, so it would have enough space for the extra students. Wallsmith said the students from MSES and VES would put BESIC at 288 students, which is at capacity.

Wallsmith used this year’s enrollment figures and moved the students up one grade. He, along with the school board, agreed the enrollment figures for next year are hard to predict. Therefore, if the schools were closed, it could put BESIC over capacity or it could be under capacity.

The building wouldn’t be at capacity if only one of the rural elementary schools were closed. That was another scenario in the fact-finding committee’s report. The maximum savings for one school closing would be around $357,000 and the minimum would be around $110,000.

“The savings comes down to how many staff positions you’re willing to live without,” Wallsmith said.

The next largest savings could come from changing the elementary schools to attendance centers. That could be done in multiple ways, but would most likely have all students in the district of one grade at a specific building.

The range of savings from elementary attendance centers would be from $42,000 to $274,000. The one potential problem might be transporting all of the students to their specified buildings.

MSES and VES Principal Gus Wegner visited the Santa Fe Trail school district, because they use attendance centers. He talked to staff members and watched how they ran their system, so he tried to explain the busing system Monday night.

“It’s similar to Federal Express,” Wegner told Lauridsen. “They all go in and then they all go out. I was impressed at the smoothness of their system.”

The final possible change would be a four-day school week. Mike Curran, teacher at Baldwin High School, presented this information. He created three scenarios on how this might work.

The first is a year-long four-day school week and that would save $131,000. The second was a condensed school year, which means the district would have classes five days a week, but start 12 days later and end 12 days earlier. That would save around $100,000.

The final scenario would be a partial four-day week. During the first and fourth quarters, the district would have classes four days a week, but then have classes all five days during the second and third quarters of the school year. The savings would be around $63,000.

The entire report will be available on the district’s Web site once the committee fixes a few errors that were found Monday night. After the report was discussed, the board opened the floor to public comment and two parents with students in Baldwin City spoke.

“It needs to be made abundantly clear to everyone in this district that every school will be affected,” Leigh Anne Bathke said. “It can’t just be Marion Springs and Vinland having their little meetings. Every cut is going to affect every child in this district. If you close Marion Springs or Vinland, my kids’ class sizes go up. If you redraw the lines, people in FireTree are going to be upset. Everything is on the table and everyone is going to be affected.

“Unfortunately, it has turned into, again, rural schools versus the city schools,” said Bathke. “When people say ‘us Marion Springs and Vinland people have to stick together against the PC or IC people,’ all it does is divide us as a district. It’s really hard for a district to be one district when it’s whispered and said that all PC people are against the rural schools. Any cut you make affects my children. You begin to wonder, when can we become one district, one family and not neighborhood school versus neighborhood school?”

JoAnne Kite, who also has students at BESPC, reiterated Bathke’s message.

“Can I just say for the record that we love the primary center?” Kite said. “I’m offended every time I hear that we aren’t a neighborhood school. We are. We know that all of the rural schools are close, but we are, too. I get emotional every time I hear that we don’t have what they have. We do have it, too.”

“My kids went to preschool with kids that go to Marion Springs and Vinland,” she said. “We’d love for them to be a part of the primary center or IC. We miss those kids. Unfortunately, those friendships have grown apart because they’ve been apart for four years. We’re all going to be together in sixth grade anyway. I just hate to see our district fight over this. These cuts will affect all of the kids in the district.”

Comments

Torch 4 years, 7 months ago

Four day school week?

As it stands they're getting less than three days of actual teaching anyway. Heck...probably more like two. Cut it down to three days and have the teachers actually teach and we'll save a ton of money.

Oh...and set the teacher salaries to 8o percent of you go to four days. Thanks.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 7 months ago

According to the District web site, the IC would be over capacity if enrollment stays the same. If you add 2nd 3rd and 4th grade enrollments together, you get 292 for next year. This, according to the article, is over capacity. It also works out to an average of 24.33 kids per classroom. The next year it bumps up to 308.

Is it really smart to start off this plan over-capacity? We don't need a bunch of extra expenses for portable classrooms when we have good buildings going to waste.

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Cityboy 4 years, 7 months ago

I’m very concerned about people taking the $425,000 max saving (max closing the two schools) as gospel, when in reality we will be closer the minimum savings number of $110,000 (min closing one school).

The reason I say this is we need to keep in mind the teacher to student ratio. The more money you save; the higher the student to teacher ratio will climb. Again, unless we do it intelligently, we need to be careful what we ask for as a community. I hope someone has done an analysis of the saving impact vs. teacher to student ratio! This is an example only (say we save $425,000 dollars, but our student to teacher ratio climbs to 30:1. If we save $110,000, the student to teacher ratio is 20:1.) Then the question becomes, what is the acceptable student to teacher ratio the community is willing to support? I’ve been in a school system where the student to teacher ratio was 28:1 and it was a mess. The kids that needed the help were passed over. As a result, my daughter struggled. When we moved to Baldwin where the student to teacher ratio was lower, she thrived and is now a straight “A” student.

I’m surprised the minimum difference between closing one school vs. two schools is only $10,000. This leads me to believe we need to keep at least one rural school open for space … otherwise we need to pass another school bond to add onto or build a bigger Elementary School in town. For another bond to pass, you would need time and a better economy.

As far as attendance centers, someone is going to have to explain to me the intelligence behind these. As I understand, if you go to attendance centers you get more money from the State … but aren’t you using more money to bus the kids around? From a tax payer perspective, this seems like a wasteful and false savings that should be eliminated by the State. If there is some other savings here, someone tell me.

On the topic of a 4-day school week … sounds interesting, but would cause issues for working parents on the day the kids have off.

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CaseyWright 4 years, 7 months ago

I'm dissapointed that the Baldwin City school district is moving in this direction. As a member of the community and a parent, I am reconsidering whether Baldwin City is trully the place that we want to raise our kids. It seems like the kids are going to be the ones ulitmately paying the price in this situation (larger classrooms, smaller window of time for learning) and I'm not willing to sacrafice my child's education just so we can save a few bucks. Especially when I take a look around and see all of the money we are spending and money spent on all of the new facilities. I understand that some of the current facilities required immediate attention, but was there NO forethought when considering the budget for construction? I'm also a working parent whose quite concerned about what a four day school week would look like and how much the extra expenses of daycare will cost our family. I'm hopeful that the "bugs" will be fixed before my daughter is old enough to go to school there. These types of decisions are forcing us to take a hard look at whether Baldwin City is the place for us to be. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, I can help! If the district decides to go to a 4-day year 'round calendar, I'll be pulling three kids out of the Baldwin City school system! Of course, then they'll lose federal funds, but they'll have three more spaces to dump the poor kids who are thriving at a county school and may not do so well in a much higher student to teacher ratio class.

Geez, Louise. One of my kids has already been left behind by No Child Left Behind and now they want to cram her in a class room with perhaps another 10 kids? That's gonna be fabulous for her future...and with the amount of work I do with her at home, it might end up being simpler all around if I just start homeschooling her.

I have sympathy with this situation. If the monies aren't there, they aren't there. HOWEVER, it is time to start slashing Admin positions - and perhaps finding that huge amount of money that went missing with the last Super. It also is so hugely galling because the planning for the IC was idiotic. And, now that push comes to shove, they won't have room for the kids that they need.

Like I've mentioned before, there is the auditorium. It holds a lot of people.

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Beth Bird 4 years, 7 months ago

When I was a child, I lived in Colorado and we had a four day school week. It was very difficult. We went to school Tuesday - Friday with Mondays off. We had slightly longer days in order to make up the time we were off. In addition to that, we lived in a rural area. I was on the bus to school by 5:30 am and I would not get home until after 6:00 pm. It was very hard as a young child to do this. In additon to the long school hours, there were still chores to be done on our farm and homework to be done for school. As someone who has expereinced a four day week, my advise is to not make this change.

On another note, this is very difficult for child care. On the Mondays we did not have school, my mother had to pay for daycare only one day a week. However, finding someone to take your children only one day a week is very hard. Child care providers have a limit to the amount of children they can care for and would have to hold a spot for that child, even though it is for one day a week. This could prove to be quite a problem finding care, especially in a community as small as Baldwin.

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jmyrick 4 years, 7 months ago

This is the kind of discussion that is needed regarding the budget situation. I hope patrons will let school board members know their feelings.

I do want to clear up one piece of misinformation. No money went "missing" during the previous administration. The $300,000 shortfall was purely a matter of overspending. The following quote from Bob Bezek, the district's attorney, sums the situation up well. It's from the Aug. 17, 2006, Signal.

"This is not a case of taking any money, no suggestion of that at all," said Bezek. "Overspending your checkbook is not good, but it's not a criminal thing."

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CaseyWright 4 years, 7 months ago

Jeff, I would love to have a voice in this - what do you think the best way is to communicate our thoughts to the school board? I would hope that they would take a look at these comments, but perhaps it might be more impactful if done by other means...Thanks for any direction you can provide...

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jmyrick 4 years, 7 months ago

Call them. E-mail them. Any type of communication. While I would hope school board members are following the discussion here, there are no guarantees.

But best of all, attend the school board meetings. Look at what patrons Leigh Anne Bathke and JoAnne Kite had to say at this past meeting. Their quotes are at the bottom of the story and are very good -- we're all in this together.

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CaseyWright 4 years, 7 months ago

Great! Thanks Jeff. My husband and I will plan on attending the April 12th, 2010 meeting at 6:30 on Chapel Street. I am encouraging anyone else who has left a comment or who feels strongly about the education of their children to attend too. I think the board really needs to hear our voice!

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Justask 4 years, 7 months ago

The board of education has scheduled two additional public forums to discuss the budget, or lack thereof. They are set for 6:30 to 8:30 pm on April 8 and April 20 in the district office board room. Check out usd348.com for more information. Please doublecheck the dates. I don't want anyone to miss these!

Thanks.

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rockytop 4 years, 7 months ago

I certainly hope everyone who has posted their thoughtful comments and concerns here does show up in person to talk to the board. I just hope everyone also remembers that the board is at the mercy of the state budget - it's not as if they're looking forward to making these cuts. I know Tony Brown and Tom Holland support education in Topeka so maybe we need to talk to our friends and neighbors in the rest of the state and ask them where THEIR legislators stand.

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CaseyWright 4 years, 7 months ago

Thanks Justask! I just clicked on your link and found that April 8th date.. We're planning on attending. Rockytop, I definitley agree with you. I don't doubt that the board is faced with some difficult decisions. I just want to be sure the voice of the people they represent is communicated and heard. I believe that if somethings important you should stand up and say so. And for me, there is nothing more important than the future of our children.

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 6 months ago

I agree I think it's time for allot of to show up at this meeting and review this report, perhaps it's also time we see if we can get a copy of the entire budget of the district so we can see what were paying for expenses everywhere..

I also think the idea of smaller school weeks would do more harm then good, now granted I have not fully reviewed the proposal made at the meeting but I can't see how with a reduced work week that teachers would not be expected to take a cut in pay. Which of course is going to lead to allot of good teachers quiting or desiring to go else where to make more money.

I'm also completely against the idea of closing either of the two rural schools as this would hurt all the students in the lower grades which is the most important for building a solid educational foundation for our kids.

Perhaps we should look at cuts to our Sports Programs. One idea I have had is allowing the districts to combine sports programs. Instead of each High School having their own sports programs with their own teams perhaps we should look at combining them with other schools to save money. This way the best athletes still have chances for scholarships.

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Justask 4 years, 6 months ago

I don't know this for sure, but I think that if the Baldwin school district goes to a four day week (in whatever form), there is still a required number of days that schools must be open. It's just going to involve rearranging the school year and maybe the school day a bit. There are several different ways that could be done, when the report comes out, take a look.

That being said, I think asking the teachers to take a pay cut is a poor choice. I do think the administration, and by this I mean everyone from principals on up, should evaluate taking some kind of pay cut. Whether it is 5 percent or 3 percent, I think it would show the patrons of this district that they understand that we are ALL going to be affected by these cuts. I don't want us to just keep cutting budgets on the backs of the students.

From what I can tell, it's not going to be changing one thing that will get us where we need to be budgetwise. It's going to be several. I believe the school district has cut all the low-hanging fruit. And now it's time to look at everything else.

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rockytop 4 years, 6 months ago

Baldwin Dad, I know this isn't the entire budget but if you go to this link, you'll see the reports of the Fact-Finding Committee with some pretty good financial specifics. As you and JustAsk said, it's going to take looking at a lot of different things to figure out where we should go.

http://usd348.com/home/committees/fact-finding-committee/

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completelytoast 4 years, 6 months ago

re: Myrick's 3/26/10 943 am comments:

Exactly. Who among us haven't absent-mindedly overdrawn our checking accounts $300,000 from time to time?

Holding adminstrators and school board members accountable with such dogged vigilance will no doubt ensure it won't happen again.

It's not like there have been current ramifications for profligate spending and ill-advised bond issues on our economic condition and education budget anyway.

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jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

I didn't say being overdrawn $300,000 was a good thing. I just said the money didn't go "missing" and used a quote from the school district attorney to show that.

The district had to tighten its belt then and made it. That was before the economy went sour and the state's revenue stream dried up, forcing these massive cuts to school districts.

The district and the school board are having the two community input meetings on April 8 and April 20, both from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The board will also have its regular meeting on April 12 at 6:30 p.m. where patrons can voice concerns. All meetings are at the District Office.

I hope that everyone who plans to attend any of those meetings will take the time to read the fact-finding committee's report. It is now on the district's Web site at usd348.com.

Nothing has been decided yet and no recommendations have been made on what to do. But at least the information on what would happen if cuts are made is available. It's a moving target right now until the Legislature decides on school funding.

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