Archive for April, 2010
Last night, the Ferndale School Board approved the minimum staffing level for certificated positions.
Next school year, the district will have at least 298.36 full-time certificated positions, which is down 36.6 FTE from this year’s minimum level. To see where these cuts will come from, click here.
Note that these cuts do not include classified staffing; those cuts are still being determined. The district has more time to determine these cuts because the notification date is later. Also, the number of teachers being laid off will likely be lower than 36 due to retirements and attrition.
There should be a story about this in tomorrow’s paper, but since it’s such a complicated issue, I thought I’d provide more information here.
Districts are funded for staffing based on how many students there are. In Ferndale, like many other districts, they have more teachers than the state pays for, requiring them to pay for those teacher salaries out of the general fund or through grants. Many teachers were paid through I-728 funds, which are funds the state provided to help increase student achievement by reducing class sizes and paying for professional development for teachers. In Ferndale, this money was basically used entirely for hiring staff. This pot of money, or what was left of it this year, was the casualty of budget cuts at the state level.
Because of I-728 being gone and declining enrollment, the Ferndale School District knew staff would have to be cut for next fall. District officials dont’ know what enrollment will be until next fall, but projections show it will be down about 200 students from this year’s budgeted amount of 4,929 (actual enrollment is down about 72 students as of April already). District officials then determined how many staff is needed to teach that many students and then went to building principals to figure out where those staff reductions should be.
The problem with this process is that laws and teacher contracts require staffing decisions to be made in the spring, long before school districts know how many students will actually attend school. School districts are required to make lay-offs in the spring and can’t make any after that unless there is a REALLY good professional reason (like a teacher abusing a student). So, if fewer students show up for school in the fall, the district has to keep all the staff on the books. But, if the flip happens and more students enroll than expected, officials can hire more teachers.
This situation frequently means districts base staffing decisions on conservative estimates so that they don’t get caught paying for more staff than they can afford. But factoring on the conservative side also means that many people go through the emotional turmoil of losing their job, only to be offered it back a couple months later after the budget is finalized.
Superintendent Linda Quinn said during last night’s meeting that if it looks like the district has more money in reserves than anticipated, they will hire more people. The budget will be adopted this summer.
I hope this helps explain the complex staffing issue.
There has been very little movement in this appeal.
A group of parents filed an appeal in Whatcom County Superior Court against the Bellingham School Board and Bellingham School District’s decision to cut PE time for grades 2-5. The appeal was filed April 8.
Since then, the Bellingham School District’s attorney, Phillip A Thompson, from Perkins Cole LLP in Bellevue, appeared in court t0 make it official that the firm will represent the board in the case.
No other documents have come out of this case yet. I will continue to monitor it, however, if you hear anything, please let me know.
This is a topic I’ve brought up here before and written about in the paper, but I thought it might be time to get a conversation going again.
People across the Bellingham School District are upset about the reopening of Lowell Elementary School this fall. The school was closed temporarily at the end of the 2007-08 school year while the building was getting a seismic retrofit. The school was supposed to reopen for the 2009-10 school year, but was kept closed for budget cuts.
At the time, then superintendent Ken Vedra and the school board assured parents that it would be only the one year and that the school wasn’t being closed permanently.
Earlier this school year, keeping with the promise from the year before, district officials crafted a timeline and plan for reopening the school this coming fall. Since then, Whatcom Middle School has burned down and the district is facing another round of budget cuts, causing many people to wonder why the district would be moving forward with the reopening of the school.
During numerous board meetings this winter and spring, Bellingham School Board members have stood behind their decision, making public statements about how they wouldn’t be shutting a school without going through a comprehensive facility review. A facility review was supposed to be happening this year, but after Vedra left early in the school year and Whatcom burned down, priorities got rearranged. Board members have said they promised people and are following through on that promise. They didn’t use Lowell to house Whatcom Middle School students due to space and transportation issues, reasons they have publicly stated at meetings.
I have been at board meetings where people continue to question this decision, given the tight economic times. I know there are other board meetings I have missed where more people have brought the topic up.
What do you think should happen? Should the school board continue with its decision? If they changed it, what should the impacted families do?
The Nooksack Valley School District has set the 2010-11 calendar. Below is a look at some important dates. To see the calendar, click here.
Sept. 1 – First day of school
Sept. 6 – no school – Labor Day
Nov. 11 – no school – Veterans’ Day
Nov. 25 and 26 – no school – Thanksgiving Break
Dec. 20 – 31 – no school – Winter Break
Jan. 17 – no school – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Jan. 31 – no school students – teacher work day between semesters
Feb. 21 – no school – Presidents’ Day
March 3 and 4 – no school – Mid Winter Break
April 4 – 8 – no school – Spring Break
May 31 – no school – Memorial Day
June 14 – last day of school
Snow make-up days (listed in order of implementation): June 15, 16, 17, March 3 and 4. (So, if there is a need to make up 5 days, mid-winter break will be canceled.)
The Mount Baker High School FFA Floriculture team recently won first place at the state Floriculture Career Development Event. The students beat out 14 other teams to win.
Students were required to show their knowledge of plants through several activities, including plant identificationand problem solving, and demonstrate their skills as a florist.
Teammembers (and their individual places): Sara Murdock (5th place), Ashley Quimby (6th place), Marina Kashubin (7th place), Irina Tikhonov (8th place), and Hannah Snavely (22nd place). Their coach was horticulture teacher Tamara Whitcomb.
This was the fourth competition this year that the floriculture team won.
The five girls will be attending the National FFA Convention in Indiana this summer. Donations are being accepted to help offset travel costs. Interested people can send money to Mt. Baker FFA Boosters, P.O. Box 162, Deming, WA 98244.
Sue Steelquist, kindergarten teacher at Blaine Primary School, is Blaine’s 2010 teacher of the year.
Steelquist was nominated by several people due to her support of the district’s youngest kids.
Steelquist has been with the Blaine School District since 1984. She graduated from Western Washington Univesrity. She also recently received her National Board Certification.
Western Washington University journalism students and the Planet and Klipsun magazines were recently honored by the Society of Professional Journalists.
The following students won awards:
Oliver Lazenby, first place for nonfiction magazine article “Why Didn’t the Goats Cross the Road,” which appeared in The Planet.
Ben Woodward, second place for in-depth reporting for “State Audits Nord,” which appeared in The Western Front.
Alexander Kelly, first place for online news reporting “Copenhangen United Nations Climate Change Conference Coverage,” which appeared on InvestigateWest.
The Planet won first place for its Fall 2009 edition and third place for the Winter 2009 edition. Klipsun won second place for its April 2009 edition.
WWU is part of Region 10, which includes all of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.
Four students from Western Washington Univesrity’s accounting department recently won first place in the second annual Financial Accounting Case Competition at Seattle University.
The team included: Jacob Diamond from Redmond, Jonathan Dunning from Mercer Island, Andrew Kangister from Tacoma and Brooke Summerfield from Federal Way.
The competition required teams to research a case and present how they would deal with the situation. Each team had three hours to research and prepare a Power Point presentation.
The team won $5,000 to be split among the team and accounting department.
Western Washington University recently made it on two national green-college ranking lists.
The Princeton Review’s annual “Guide to Green Colleges” surveys schools and ranks them based on how “green” they are. Areas considered include LEED buildings, environmental literacy programs, sustainability committees, use of renewable energy, recycling and conservation programs, etc.