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Community comments on School Board budget

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 1st, 2011

South Lane School District Superintendent Krista Parent repeated a message about the district’s budget woes at a budget worksession held Monday night in the Cottage Grove High School cafetorium. Members of the audience then shared their hopes and fears regarding a host of cuts that mcust be made to balance the District’s 2011-12 budget.

Parent updated numbers related to the District’s share of a state budget shortfall, revising the estimate to between $3.8 million and $4.7 million that must be trimmed from the District’s 2011-12 budget.

Again the presentation gave four main causes for the current budget shortfall: Declining enrollment, loss of short-term funding; back-to-back years of cuts and a reduction in the state allocation for K-12 education.

The District has lost an average of 25-30 students per year for some time, Parent said, and has lost more than 30 kids for five years in a row. Decreases in federal stimulus funding, PRIDE Grant dollars and federal timber funds will add up to a loss of about $3.4 million. About $595,000 was saved last year by trimming days from the school calendar. That money will not be added to the budget to bring the District back to even funding. The District has also endured cuts for nine of the past 10 years.

“The first time we had to do it, there was a lot more available to cut than there is now,” Parent said. “The cumulative effect of these cuts is catching up with us now.”

(The slides used in Parent’s presentation can be viewed at the district website, www.slane.k12.or.us.)

Parent then outlined her solution in the form of budget cuts: 12 full-time teaching positions (15 when assuming that Latham School is closed); closure of Latham School and the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center; 1/3 of the district’s custodians; four secretaries; 26 hours of library and technological staff time; 97 hours per day of educational assistants’ time; one district administrator; one principal and 10 days cut from the school calendar, in addition to trimming one administrator, one principal and one-third of the athletics budget and other cuts.

Parent stated that another meeting may need to be added to the School Board’s schedule to tackle budget issues. She showed a schedule featuring regular board meetings March 7, April 4 and May 2, in addition to a budget worksession April 18 and budget meetings May 9, 12 and 16.

Tammy Hodgkinson began the public comment portion of the worksession:

“As a former teacher, I never thought I would be in the position of encouraging the school board to close a school,” she said. Hodgkinson said her concerns centered around the possibility of cuts to special education services at Bohemia Elementary, which her son receives.

“I’m not convinced these cuts are legal or ethical,” she said. “I wonder if these cuts would be intended to carve out money to help Latham stay afloat for another year.”

Marcy Quimby next advocated for keeping Latham open.

“Latham is a small school that has helped my son immensely,” she said. “Latham saved my son, in my opinion.

“If we can help one child, it’s worth keeping open,” Quimby said, “and my son’s not the only one who needs help.”

A number of speakers implored the School Board to keep funding middle school positions at London and Dorena Elementary Schools, including Dorena students Summer Bruncan and Lisette Guerrero, who spoke in superlatives about how much they learned and enjoyed their experiences there.

Former School Board President Jim Goes also spoke on behalf of the middle school programs.

“Excellence in this district has, in my opinion, revolved around academic achievement and choice,” Goes said. “I hope we can keep those choices in regard to London and Dorena.”

Leslee Craven spoke up in support of the middle school at London.

“To be able to have my daughter’s special needs addressed by the middle school program has been tremendous and vital to her ability to transition to high school next year,” Craven said.

Latham teacher Tim Broadbent offered his opinion regarding the media’s portrayal of teachers.

“It’s not easy to watch the evening news and see myself portrayed as a greedy overpaid public sector worker,” Broadbent said.

“People are calling for sacrifices,” he added, “and it’s important for this community to realize that its teachers have already made those sacrifices. We took a three-day reduction in the 08-09 school year, which was a 4.5 percent pay cut. In 09-10 we had another pay cut; we took a seven-day cut last year equal to a 3.5 percent reduction.

“I request that you don’t balance the district’s budget simply on the backs of its employees,” he said. “The time to be forward-thinking is now.”

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