Northwest NEWS

May 20, 2002

School

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School board approves budget cuts

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   The Northshore School District (NSD) expects to lose about $1.5 million next year as a result of state budget cuts. In addition, the district expects about $1.7 million in increased costs for the same time period.
   Faced with a total budget shortfall of some $3.2 million, the school district formed a task force to examine ways to trim next year's budget.
   Task force recommendations were presented to the school board at its May 14 meeting. The school board approved all of the recommended cuts - cuts in transportation, energy use, custodian hours, maintenance and operations, administration staff hours, central office cuts, activity cuts and elementary/secondary education cuts - all except five:
   1. The task force wanted to relocate Project Hope to a district or purchased site. Project Hope is a small special education program that serves 22 students. It is currently housed in a building on Main Street in Bothell. But because the district has already signed a lease for next year, the school board cannot relocate the program at this time.
   2. The task force wanted to implement participation fees for after-school activities. School board members decided to take this measure off the table, at least for next year.
   3. The task force wanted to change 7th/8th grade after-school sports to intramurals and to eliminate elementary intramurals. School board members decided to take this recommendation off the table, at least for this year.
   4. The task force wanted to eliminate the district subsidy for Camp Casey. NSD is one of the few school districts to have such an outdoor education program. The school board has decided to study how clearly Camp Casey aligns with the new state science curriculum. District spokeswoman Pamela Steele said this program might go to the wayside in the 2003-2004 school year.
   5. The task force wanted to implement a $50 fee per pupil for the before-school music program. School board members decided to take this recommendation off the table, at least for this year.
   "If, as we anticipate," said Steele, "the Legislature makes further education cuts in its next budget, pay-for-play, intramurals and music fees will be the first items back on the table for consideration in helping us reduce our 2003-2004 budget. We figure by letting our families know about the possibility of these changes, these program fees, they will be able to plan ahead and budget."
   Staffing Questions
   One of the items the task force recommended and the school board approved -increasing the staff ratio by .5 for all grades - had members of the Northshore Education Association (NSEA) up in arms. The Association sees the "ratio change" as little more than a teacher-reduction scheme.
   "The district claims," said Aaron Feik, president of the NSEA, "that the number of teachers employed next year will be equal to, or more than, what we currently have. But I'm confused. How can they say they are cutting some $1 million dollars in staffing costs and at the same time keeping staffing levels the same? I asked the school board that very question, but I didn't get a clear answer.
   "The district hired 51 new teaches last year. Twenty-five of them were hired on non-continuing contracts. These 25 have been notified they will not have jobs next year. They have been encouraged to apply for job openings as they come up and to update their credentials for district files."
   But they represent 25 fewer teachers, said Feik.
   The influx of I-728 dollars, said Steele, and projected enrollment for next year virtually negate an increased ratio between teachers and students.
   "Staffing will be as good as or better than this year," said Steele. "We know at a minimum we will be hiring nine new teachers. No one will be laid off," she said.
   "I was disappointed about actions taken by the school board," said Feik.
   Northshore Education Association members demonstrated their frustration with the budget process by picketing the May 14 school board meeting.
   "It was nice to see elementary, junior high and high school teachers walking side by side, showing their concern about the budget process," said Feik.