Suggested school cuts vary from drastic to creative

Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011

While the proposed list of cuts to the Juneau School District’s budget was lengthy, and a hard task for the budget committee, there were many suggestions given to the cabinet by staff and community members that ranged from creative to drastic.

On Tuesday night Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich not only handed out the list of budget reductions to meet an estimated $4.3 million deficit, but he also handed out a list of all the ideas presented to the administration.

Suggestions targeted closing schools like Yaakoosge Daakahidi, Montessori, Juneau Charter School and/or an elementary school. Combining Yaakoosge and Montessori also was suggested.

Other budget-trimming suggestions focused on programs, such as like cutting all unfunded No Child Left Behind mandates, the CHOICE program, AVID, drug testing and reducing electives.

Suggestions also pointed to eliminating staffing — with a heavy focus at the administrative level — such as the assistant superintendent position and science coach. Having fewer administrators was suggested, as was, specifically, reducing the number of high school administrators and eliminating any central office staff positions added recently.

Academy support positions and other non-classroom instruction support positions were also suggested for reduction, as was a consolidation among the ranks of the district’s literacy leaders.

Budget committee and board member Andi Story asked Gelbrich if the panel could have a list produced of the specific administrative positions, and how they’re funded.

If people have suggestions on administrative staff to cut, they should at least know what the positions are, Story said. “I always hear the question that administration is really top-heavy. I think it’s important for people to see the positions.”

Furloughs — one or more days without pay — were also suggested. The top administrators have taken that suggestion and applied it to themselves in the suggested cuts; they will have two days without pay, which is about an $8,000 budget cut.

Other ideas suggested focused more on creativity and getting more revenue to the district. One was to create a landscaping class, where students would take care of some of the groundskeeping. Another was to have secondary school students take city buses to school, or centralize bus stops to maximize the number of riders per bus.

Online classes promoting standards-based credits and online substitute models were suggested.

Cost savings of continuing to decrease utility costs, and even turning off hot water in restrooms, were other ideas.

Doing more outreach to get home-schooled children into the district also was suggested, and has been recently discussed at by the school board.

Not all ideas were focused on cuts. Some suggested increasing the number of nurses, adding support for youth activities outside of school, increasing recycling efforts, and creating extra prep time for staff to develop smaller learning communities.

One trend in actual cuts proposed by the administration, a committee member noticed, is that cuts seem to focus heavily on elementary schools while the high schools seem to be taking less of an impact.

Gelbrich said the cabinet steered away from impacting the high schools too much since the new graduation requirements recommendation is set to come out. He said the district didn’t want to make high-impact cuts at the high school level and roll out new requirements if high school students then won’t be able to accomplish the graduation standards. Gelbrich said cuts at other levels were discussed.
“Its not that we didn’t think about other reductions,” he said. “We have different staff and board members looking at that work. We weren’t sure what the implications would be if they could carry that out. We couldn’t point to the impact. That may become more evident to us as we go through the spring.”

To see more information on what cuts administration presented to the budget committee see:

To see documents from this year’s budget process go to:

To submit comments on the budget, send an e-mail to .

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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