JSD: Cutting truancy officer hasn't affected attendance

Superintendent addresses travel budget in report to budget committee

According to a budget question and answer report put out by Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich, the average daily attendance rate stayed the same from fiscal year 2012 to 2013, when the truancy officer position was cut from the budget.

 

The report, intended to answer questions posed by the district’s budget committee, said that average daily attendance was about 91 percent in 2012 and remained constant in 2013.

The committee held its third-to-last meeting to parse out the district’s fiscal year 2015 budget Wednesday night at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. Gelbrich teleconferenced into the meeting; he was in Washington, D.C., on a district-related trip along with budget committee member Brian Holst.

Also included in the report were answers to questions about the district’s travel budget. The committee asked why $20,000 was allotted in the budget for recruitment travel when teacher positions are on the chopping block. The report stated that the FY 2015 recruitment travel budget was cut to $13,000 on Feb. 5. A recruitment travel budget is necessary for bringing “administrative candidates into Juneau for the interview process,” the report stated. There are currently three administrative positions to fill, and “flight, hotel and car rental averages about $1,500 per candidate.” According to the report, the district aims to bring in two to three candidates per position.

Overall, staff travel is
proposed to be cut to $42,275 in FY 2015, a significant step down from FY 2014’s $136,397. The district’s travel expenses have been steadily decreasing since 2011, when they topped out at $242,634, according to district numbers.

Staff travel “is part of the professional development of support personnel,” the report stated. “Many times their training needs are so specialized that there are not specific training opportunities available locally. ... For example, as the District renovates buildings, a maintenance employee may need to take a course in the repair and maintenance of new equipment. Or a finance person may need to take a course in Anchorage on the latest update of the payroll system.”

The report also addressed the superintendent’s own travel budget. In 2011, Gelbrich’s travel expenditures — $30,904 — were the second highest after travel recruitment expenditures — $44,448. The 2014 budget allotted $7,697 for Gelbrich’s travel. The proposed 2015 budget cuts that down to $4,000.

The report stated, however, that sometimes Gelbrich’s travel is paid out of the AVID professional development travel budget, if his trip is related to the district’s AVID program, intended to help struggling students learn vital life and study skills. The program, for which the district pays for membership and materials, is also up for being cut or changed to save the district money in the new budget.

“Sometimes there are outside groups paying for his travel such as his upcoming trip as part of the Kennedy Art Center’s program, ‘Any Given Child,’ which is not paid from school district funds at all,” the report stated. Gelbrich was away on the Any Given Child trip this week.

The committee also asked about the Alaska Airlines miles the district has used to cover some of its travel expenses. The report stated “the reports from Alaska Airline mileage redemption center do not allow us to easily attribute mileage use to a particular line item within the budget.” However, the top use for the miles was professional development trips, such as Advance Placement and specialized training for teachers and AVID program training for teachers and administrators.

The committee asked for an itemized list of 2014’s district-funded trips and their associated expenses and airline mileage. The report stated, however, that because “there is not one person assigned to schedule traveling. ... Answering this question will take more time than what I or staff can devote to it.”

All school budget-related documents can be found online at www.juneauschools.org/district/administrative_services/our_budget. Public testimony and questions can be sent to the Budget Committee at budgetinput@juneauschools.org.

The next Budget Committee meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at Thunder Mountain High School. The finished budget will go before the school board for the first time at its March 11 meeting.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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