Friday, January 29, 2010

The Week In Review

Well, where do I begin? Let's start with Monday. I went out to get the paper (in my shorts) and ended up stuck on Kasson Road on a sheet of ice an hour later. Buses were on their way, most middle school students were delivered, some elementary students were en route, and some were at home. A mess and too late to call anything or do anything about it.

A situation like Monday has only happened one other time in my 10 years as Superintendent. It took me 50 minutes to get to work (usually takes about 10) and I was sick to my stomach the entire day as I wondered how many accidents there had been and kept my fingers crossed for student drivers. Nine o'clock came and it was over. Don't ever think for a minute that we take school closing decisions or delays lightly or that we try to stay open just to receive state aid. We are in contact with about a dozen people before a decision is made, and most of us have our own children on the same buses and roads that you have your children on. Monday just happened without warning and quite frankly, it stunk.

Also on the "stink-o-meter" is the budget for next year. You might recall from my previous posts that as we create the budget for next year we were looking at a budget gap of approximately $2.5M. This is after we rolled this year's budget over and applied some reserve funds, making sure that we have enough reserves left for the next few challenging years.

We decided to freeze spending for the remainder of the school year, and we feel that this maneuver will bring the budget gap to $1.8M. We then looked at student enrollment and the number of staff that we have to serve the student population. We have had a slight enrollment decline from about 5,200 students early last year to an estimated 4,950 students when we begin classes in September. This reduction in enrollment caused us to perform an exercise called "Adjusting to Scale" where we take a look at every department and make sure that we have the correct number of staff for each duty that needs to be performed.

As a result of this exercise we are going to make reductions in administration, district office staff, operational support staff, teaching staff, teaching assistant and aide staff, athletics, fine arts, building support staff, and buildings and grounds staff. While difficult, these decisions would be made even in ideal economic conditions based on enrollment. These reductions will cause approximately 14.5 position cuts.

The result of this adjustment, as well as the elimination of non-essential overtime and conferences, leaves us with a gap of $1M. This gap will hopefully be closed through negotiations with staff and the impact of retirements. If not we will need to conduct a second round of cuts that will dig deeper into administration, athletics, fine arts, and instruction.

The nice thing about this District and community is the sense of family and the trust that we have for each other. I appreciate the opportunity to try and think outside of the box in meeting our budget challenges. Many of my colleagues will have to close their budget gaps with straight staff reductions (would have been about 80 people in our case). That would be tough.

For those of you who are somewhat in tune with taxes and school budgets, our resulting budget will have less of a tax impact than that of a "contingency" budget, or a failed budget. It is what it is, and we will adapt and overcome.

Now for some good news… We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 volunteers (BOE members, students, and staff) for the upcoming Special Olympics. I think this is a great turn out and exemplifies all that we believe in for children.

Our hockey and swim teams are cranking right along and seem poised to compete deeply into State level competition.

College acceptance letters keep pouring in for our seniors and on a percentage basis, more of our seniors have earned the opportunity to receive a college acceptance letter. This in conjunction with those entering the Armed Services or those attending a trade school, put us in line to have one of the highest completion rates on record.

The high school musical is next week and it has the makings to be amazing. I will be attending Wicked this evening and I am proud to be in a District where I can make comparisons between school performances and off-Broadway productions. Nice work.

Time to head out into buildings and have some fun! Have a great weekend.