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District sticks with teacher cuts

Revised budget proposal added one committee item

Posted: March 12, 2014 - 11:13pm

A first reading of the Juneau School District administration’s revised budget proposal “does not sit well” with school budget committee member Michelle Norman and the other committee members and stakeholders who packed the school board’s Tuesday night meeting to testify on a series of agenda items.

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich presented his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, reworked after the 17-member budget committee voted on and submitted a proposal of budget add-backs and cuts.

However, “only one of the committee’s proposals” was implemented in the administration’s budget proposal, Norman said during her testimony: postponing a new $400,000 secondary math curriculum. Besides adding a teacher at Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools and implementing a credit recovery plan at all three high schools, the budget remained mostly unchanged from Gelbrich’s original proposal.

That means the district is still on track to eliminate 20 teaching positions and purchase a new elementary school language arts curriculum (worth approximately $500,000). The community budget committee voted to postpone the curriculum purchase and keep pupil-teacher ratio, or PTR, flat at all grade levels. Cutting teachers would increase PTR by about three students across the board.

“The most urgent need is to support students at the high school level,” Gelbrich said in his presentation of the budget. “We have to address the minimum standard of each one graduating.”

Of this year’s juniors, 23 percent at TMHS, 15 percent at JDHS and 65 percent at Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School are not on track to graduate, Gelbrich said. The teacher additions and credit recovery program aim to turn this around, he said.

Gelbrich said district administrators agreed on the budget proposal, “as near unanimous as you can get without being unanimous.”

During her testimony, budget committee member Jennifer Lindley quoted Gelbrich from a recent Idaho Statesman article about candidacy for a superintendent position in the state, and asked Gelbrich to reconsider the committee’s recommendations.

“Building trust comes down to doing what the community is asking you to do through the elected board and following through with that,” Lindley read. “I want to trust you, the community wants to trust you.”

Budget committee member Stephanie Allison testified in support of the board. She said she acknowledged that the administration and the board aren't obligated to adopt all of the committee's recommendations, but to consider the community input before deciding on a final budget. 

School board member Barbara Thurston said she hasn’t been convinced by parents or teachers that keeping PTR down will increase student achievement.

“Nobody said that,” she said.

On the other hand, it’s clear, she said, that a new curriculum would provide a boost to achievement. She said public testimony has been a “battle of the teachers” — some have advocated for new curriculum, some have advocated for lower PTR.

“Either way we’re going to frustrate a number of people,” she said. “But it really sounds like curriculum is the way we need to be moving.”

Auke Bay Elementary School second-grade teacher Allison Smith said she had just been given samples of the three curricula in late January and was asked to try them out in her classroom and give a recommendation. Teachers will finish reviewing the curricula by the end of this week, district Teaching and Learning Director Patty Newman said in her report.

“Please give us more time,” Smith said.

Also at the meeting, Gelbrich said in his report that a board member will be chosen to help district job candidates through the hiring process, “in the event that if I were not here, the candidates would have the support of the board or the support of someone above them in the process.” The district is currently looking to hire a principal for Riverbend Elementary School, a human resources director and a student services director.

“There has been some interest in that I have looked at some other positions,” Gelbrich said. “The board elected tonight to do that, which is fairly unusual to do. But with the changing superintendent role ... it’s an important step for us to take.”

The board will do a second reading of the district’s budget proposal and take public testimony at a special meeting March 25. It will consider both the committee and administrative recommendations and present its final budget to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on March 28.

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

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Steven Rosales
682
Points
Steven Rosales 03/13/14 - 06:22 pm
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James Coleman

Couldnt have said it better myself

Clay Good
1892
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Clay Good 03/14/14 - 10:05 pm
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Anonymous Posting is Digital Graffitti.

People who put their name to their words are more careful about what they say.

It's better that way.

Tom Leston
1858
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Tom Leston 03/16/14 - 07:42 am
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There is still a need in our

There is still a need in our world to protect the views of the minority which is why it is actually better to allow for anonymous posting.

Clay Good
1892
Points
Clay Good 03/16/14 - 03:08 pm
5
3
Anonymous posting protects minority views?

If you're referring to the minority that posts ad hominem attacks and generally demonstrates intolerance for others, may I respectfully beg to differ?

I suggest we do a better job of respecting minority views by disallowing unattributed meanness.

People who have something to say about somebody better be ready to put their name to it, or like I said above, it's just digital graffiti.

Tom Leston
1858
Points
Tom Leston 03/17/14 - 09:43 am
2
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Clay, it would be far more

Clay, it would be far more appropriate for the empire to just monitor their blogs than to force people into using their real names.
Blogging is "graffiti" writing without oppression, oppressive grammar rules etc..... god forbid that should ever change. If you want good, correct, appropriateness, suitable, proper then don't read blogs.

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