The Juneau School District administration took a bigger hit, along with custodial services, in order to restore other areas in the latest work session on budget cuts.
The district is facing a $4.1 million deficit — minimum — in the next fiscal year. This assumes a $100 base pupil allocation increase by the legislature. School board member and budget committee chairwoman suggested people encourage their legislators to approve an increase, as it doesn’t look optimistic at the House level.
District Director of Administrative Services David Means and Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich presented a memorandum Thursday evening to the budget committee adding back some previously proposed cuts while cutting other areas to make up the difference.
The changes came due to public testimony advocating for programs being targeted, and from committee concerns.
The administration is proposing restoring the pupil to teacher ratio to its current ratio of 21:1 at the K-2 level, which adds back three teachers. It also recommends increasing elementary instructional coaches from four to six, and adding an hourly position to replenish art kits. One art specialist position is up for elimination.
Prior to committee discussion, staff from several schools and the community Artist in Schools board strongly advocated to restore the full position because it provides for teacher professional development, incorporates art into lessons and because the positions were started through community support.
Glacier Valley librarian and music teacher Laurie Heagy said that in a study done of the nations top companies, the thing they look for most in CEO’s is creativity.
Another woman presented information from a New York City School System report that found that schools with strong art programs had the highest graduation rates.
Part of public testimony at the prior budget meeting advocated for looking to spread cuts out better — instead of such a heavy focus at the elementary level. The suggestion of cutting some from the custodial/maintenance area was aired, and showed in the new proposal. It eliminates two custodial positions for $132,000, reduces the maintenance supply and services budget by $60,000, and cuts the custodial supply budget by $20,000.
The superintendent and directors have agreed to take a pay freeze, in addition to the previously announced two-day furloughs for a savings of $25,600.
One central office administrative assistant position may be cut for a savings of $58,000.
Another proposal cuts three literacy coaches at the secondary education level for $292,000.
It also adjusts the beginning fund balance to account for an Extended Learning position at a middle school that has been vacant all year for a savings of $85,000.
The total amount of new cuts is $713,000. The total add-backs tally $490,000.
The cabinet recommends the remaining funds be used to reduce PTR for third grade as well.
Saddler asked Gelbrich to clarify why Extended Learning was not added back, after a large amount of public input at the prior meeting.
Gelbrich said he believes the district can still meet the needs of the gifted students who need advanced learning for their age with the cuts. He said if he believed differently, it wouldn’t be on the list.
The committee broke into three groups and discussed ideas for what they wanted to see.
Dick Monkman, committee member, said his group reached a consensus on several areas: ask the city for about $500,000 more in activity fee costs, since that is one area it can increase funding; ask the unions to agree to a unilateral voluntary wage freeze to avoid increasing PTR and losing teachers; combining Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School and Montessori to gain more than $1 million in state aid; and eliminate voluntary drug testing on the basis that students who volunteer for drug testing aren’t likely the ones who need it.
Rebecca Braun, committee member, said her group didn’t come to a consensus on anything, but discussed cutting all literacy leaders to decrease PTR at elementary schools; putting back the art specialist and EL positions; cutting the administration budget by 10 percent; reducing special education paraeducators; eliminating MAPS testing — though some felt strongly opposed; increasing fees for community schools; and increasing activity fees.
Andi Story, committee and board member, said one area her group came to a consensus on was leaving third grade PTR alone and restoring the arts specialist and high school counselor.
Aside from that, her group came away with more questions. They wanted to know how it would work if the counselor position was gone — how those services would be impacted. After hearing testimony from Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School Students on the music program, they wondered if cutting the Charter School would be more beneficial since more staff could serve more students at existing middle schools. Gelbrich clarified that music isn’t slated for a cut, but with the increase in PTR and therefore smaller class sizes, it could happen with the associated loss of a specialist.
The budget committee will meet again on Feb. 15 to hash out the issues through the entire meeting. Saddler hopes the committee can come to a consensus and give a final recommendation to the school board before it meets with the City Assembly. The final version has to be approved by the Assembly by March 31.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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