Archive for July, 2010
Here’s today’s story about Ferndale’s budget adoption. There are a few extra things in this version vs. the one in the paper.
FERNDALE – Officials in the Ferndale School District hope the 2010-11 budget sets the district up for fewer position and program cuts in coming school years.
The new $50 million operating budget was adopted 4-0 by the Ferndale School Board on Thursday night, July 29, with board member Troy Clark absent.
In preparing the budget, district officials focused on allocating money in ways that are sustainable and protect the district’s core mission of providing a high-quality educational program for all children.
The Ferndale School District has gone through the staff-cutting process the past few springs, with many people getting called back by the start of the school year because of increased revenue from higher-than-expected enrollment or federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds, said Mark Deebach, executive director of business and support services.
But using one-time money, such as stimulus funds, to cover operating expenses creates “volatility” when the funding goes away, Deebach said. Because of that, district officials tried to bring basic operating expenses for 2010-11 within the revenue stream provided by the state and local property taxes. “Categorical” funding, which can come from grants or government funding, can be used for special programs or positions.
Deebach compared what the district did to a family bringing its household expenses within salary money rather than relying on bonus checks to pay the bills.
When making staff cuts this year, officials used a ratio for certificated staff, which includes teachers and counselors, that was based on enrollment and still maintained low class sizes. Enrollment is dropping, however, which contributed to reducing districtwide staffing by the equivalent of 23 full-time positions.
“This year we really carefully tried to look at… how we can build a budget so we’re not doing this every year,” Superintendent Linda Quinn said of going through the staff layoff process. “It is painful and has been painful for years.”
About $500,000 from the 2010-11 operating budget is being put aside to help offset potential budget shortfalls during the 2011-12 school year.
“It’s a balancing act,” Deebach said. “How much do you take this year to protect next year?”
The budget also allows district officials, in conjunction with the affected people, to consider doing things differently. For example, the district’s library program was reduced by half for the 2009-10 school year, and rather than “continuing on with a diluted program,” it was cut for the 2010-11 school year and will be reinvented by district staff and a librarian on special assignment to align with current student needs.
There are other examples too. Instead of cutting custodial time so that funding could be redirected to building maintenance, district officials and the custodial staff reached an agreement about training the staff in basic maintenance. By having custodians take care of basic maintenance, it means the district will have to contract-out fewer projects, and no one gets laid off.
Other examples include reorganizing the district office in the wake of the elimination of two administrative positions, and moving Windward High School to the Ferndale High campus to save on rent and provide students with access to a wider variety of programs.
“While we’re in reduction mode, we’re also in improvement mode,” Deebach told the board Thursday night.
“Nothing is good about it for folks without jobs,” Quinn said about the district’s finances. “But I think we will be a better district if we can live through this and stabilize.”
For the first time in 23 years, the Ferndale School Board’s seat for District No. 1 is open to anyone to grab.
As board president Lee Anne Riddle commented while reading Hruby’s resignation letter, “it’s feels like the end of an era.”
Hruby will remain on the board until October 28. (Everyone did get a good chuckle though when Riddle realized the resignation letter said he was staying through October 2020, rather than October 2010.)
Because Hruby is leaving mid-term, the district is looking for someone to fill his seat until the next regular school board election, which is in Nov. 2011.
To be eligible, a person must be a U.S. citizen, a registered voter in Washington State, live within the boundaries of District No. 1 and not be employed, or have dependents employed, by the school district.
District No. 1 is at the north end of the district and encompasses Custer and the communities east of Birch Bay and east and south of Blaine. To view a map, click here.
Application packets are available for interested people, starting today. They must be submitted to the district office no later than 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 30. School board members will review the applications, pick people to interview and then appoint someone to fill the position. If the person selected is interested in keeping the school board position longer than the year, they will need to file for the election in 2011.
For more information, contact the district office at 383-9207.
Note: This is the second post about Miller. To read the initial post, click here.
Mark Miller, a substitute bus driver for the Bellingham School District, is one of the safest school bus drivers in U.S. and Canada, according to the National School Transportation Association.
Miller, who has only been driving buses for a little over a year, took home the top award for the largest-bus-group at the 40th annual School Bus Driver International Safety Competition in St. Louis on Sunday, July 25.
“I was absolutely on Cloud 9,” he said, adding that he didn’t even hear his name announced because everyone was cheering so loudly. “I was so excited to be able to represent Washington well, represent Belingham, and get the title, the highest available to school bus drivers.”
Miller is the first to admit his short, whirlwind trip to the top is an odd story. Miller, who is an Allegient Airlines captain, was looking for something to fill his free time last spring and thought working part-time driving a “big yellow bus” could be fun.
During his certification training in May 2009, Miller was recruited to be on the competitive bus driving team.
“I thought I was just signing up for bringing kids to and from school,” the 30-year-old said. “I had no idea there was competitive bus driving.”
A couple weeks after getting his certification, he competed in his first regional “roadeo.” Not only did he earn the highest rookie score, he had the highest score overall, stunning everyone, including himself. After that, he “was hooked,” continuing on to win the state competition in 2009 and the regional, state and international competitions in 2010.
“I love driving school buses. I’m completely hooked,” he said. “It’s one of the greatest discoveries of my 20s.”
The Blaine School District will be asking voters to approve a $32 million bond to upgrade facilities, including Blaine High School, and purchase property in Birch Bay, according to Superintendent Ron Spanjer.
The Blaine School Board decided on Monday, July 26 to put the issue to voters in April.
A similar bond was approved by more than 50 percent of district voters in 2008, but under state rules, bonds must pass with a 60 percent super majority.
More information to come soon.
Updates at bottom of post
The finalists in the second round of the federal Race to the Top competition have been named, and Washington is not among them.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the finalists are as follows:
Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
In all, 35 states and Washington, D.C. applied for part of the $3.4 billion available through the competition. Winners will be announced in September, with 10 to 15 possible.
The Ferndale School Board will consider adopting the budget on Thursday, July 29. There will be a public hearing about the budget at 6:30 p.m.
There will be another story in Friday’s paper about how the budget prepares the district for future years.
According to this Education Week blog post, finalists will be announced tomorrow in the second round of the federal Race to the Top competition.
This time, Washington participated, with most districts supporting the decision. In Whatcom County, five out of seven districts signed-on to the state’s application.
But does Washington have a chance to even be a finalist? Not according to Michele McNeil and Alyson Klein at the Politics K-12 blog. Here is their prediction on the list of finalists.
District of Columbia
Mark Miller, a substitute school bus driver for the Bellingham School District, is apparently the safest bus driver in the country.
On Sunday, July 25, Miller won the 40th annual School Bus Driver International Safety Competition in St. Louis, according to Rae Anne Thon, bus driver trainer for the district.
To take first, Miller had to beat-out bus drivers from all over the U.S. and Canada in three competitions: a written test about general driver knowledge and laws, a mock pre-trip inspection and an obstacle course.
The event, also known as a bus roadeo, is the ultimate competition for school bus drivers. In order to reach the international competition, drivers must place in the top three at a regional competition (which was held in May for northwest Washington) and then be the first-place winner at the state competition (which was in June for Washington). This year, Miller took first place in each competition he participated in.
I will have a full story about Miller’s accomplishment after he gets back into town.
I was forwarded an interesting story from the Washington Post about the Washington, D.C. school district firing 226 teachers. To read the story, click here.
The firings were done based on poor performance in the new evaluation system.
The new evaluations are partially based on student growth on standardized tests and classroom observations.
Steve Jilk, the general manager of Whatcom County Public Utility No. 1, is the Lynden School District’s newest board member.
The Lynden School Board unanimously approved appointing him to a vacant seat on Thursday, July 22.
Jilk, a former City of Lynden administrator, replaces Todd Lingbloom, the former board president. Linbloom resigned on June 11 due to work keeping him out of the country.
Only two people filed for the open position: Jilk and Dr. Dominic Shiu, a family physician who has lived in the area for a couple years and has a child at Isom Elementary School.
Jilk, who has lived in Lynden since 1993, has two grandchildren enrolled in district schools.
“In the past, I’ve thought about running for the school board, but I’ve always been apprehensive in taking the opportunity when an incumbent is running for position because then it becomes the blame game,” he told board members during his interview Thursday night. “I felt this would be a good opportunity to really engage in your process and the school district without having to say, ‘I can do better than what you’ve done before.’”
While he doesn’t believe any individual person needs to be doing a better job, he does believe the district as a whole can make improvements in multiple areas, including communication and student achievement.
“Looking at (standardized test) scores, I know they compare pretty closely to school districts across the state in several areas,” he told board members, “but I do believe that… being average is not good enough for us.”
Lynden School Board members are volunteers. According to the district’s board policies, the Jilk will serve until the “next regularly scheduled board election,” which is in 2011. At that point, Jilk can file for the election if he would like to remain on the board.
Now that the board is full, Lynden School Board members will select a new president at the next meeting.