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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Four days likely to be added back

Four days likely to be added back

Budget committee endorses $23.6 million budget for 2012-13 

The La Grande School District is poised to add back four school days and cut 3.24 teaching and non teaching positions without laying any employees off.

The district’s budget committee voted Wednesday to recommend a total 2012-13 budget of $23.6 million to the school board. The budget includes funding for the addition of four school days which were cut a year ago. The days would be added back at a total cost of about $250,000.  

The proposed budget does not include funding for 3.24 teaching and non teaching positions which will become open because of retirements this month. These positions would be cut by not replacing the employees who are retiring.  

Proposed to be cut are a full time kindergarten teaching position, one half of a La Grande High School social studies position, .25 of a La Grande Middle School music teacher position, .3 of a LMS food service support position and .94 of an LHS special education para professional position.

The kindergarten teacher position would be cut because enrollment projections indicate that the district will be able to operate its kindergarten program with three instead of four teachers in 2012-13. Should kindergarten enrollment be higher than anticipated and create a need for another teacher, the district would be quickly add one. Funding needed to hire an additional kindergarten teacher would be kept in reserve.

The budget also contains funding which would allow for:

• teachers and classified staff to continue receiving pay increases when they take a step up their salary schedules. Teachers advance up their salary schedule based on experience and education. Classified staff members advance based on experience.

• the pay for extra duty contracts for staff, which was cut 10 percent for 2011-12, to be restored to previous levels. Coaches and advisors for programs like FFA and Future Business Leaders of America are among those who receive extra duty contracts. Presently, the approximate range of extra duty contracts is $1,000 to $4,000. 

• stipends to be added for teachers leading the district’s new Professional Learning Communities program. The stipends would be close to what department heads in schools receive, which is about $400 a year.

The budget committee voted 10-1 to recommend the proposed budget to the school board. Mike Berglund was the lone committee member who voted in opposition. Berglund, also a school board member, said he is worried the expenditures the budget calls for would draw the district’s ending fund balance dangerously low. This would put the district in a vulnerable situation if the economy takes another downturn, which state economists believe is quite possible, Berglund said. 

The economy has a major influence on public school district funding since districts receive most of their funding from the state.  

The ending fund balance Berglund referred to is the money the district has at the end of the school year. The ending fund balance was $1.2 million a year ago but is now $1.4 million. It has doubled in the past three years, said La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze. He credits this to conservative budgeting and steps taken to reduce spending.  

The proposed spending plan contains an adjustment which would boost funding for the district’s Talented and Gifted program by $2,000 to $2,500. The additional money for TAG would be obtained by transferring money from a substitute teacher fund. 

The additional $2,000 would be used to pay for tutors at elementary schools to help children who are high achievers in math. The addition to TAG was made after several community members expressed concern about the district’s low TAG budget at the committee’s May 30 meeting.

Glaze said that the TAG budget is misleading because it reflects only a small portion of the services available for high achieving students. The superintendent noted that in 2012-13, for example, four teachers at LHS will be instructing EOU courses after receiving training through the new Eastern Promise program.

This will add to programs already in place at LHS which offer students a chance to earn college credit. Glaze noted that five Advanced Placement classes offering college credit are taught at LHS –– biology, composition, calculus, literature and U.S. history. In addition, career technology courses offering a total of 46 college credits are also available at LHS.

The superintendent also noted that high achieving math students at La Grande Middle School have the chance to take take geometry courses for which they receive high school credit.

Several community members who are the parents of TAG students said they would like the district to do more to assist high achieving students. One parent said she was concerned because it seemed that most of the district’s program’s for TAG students help only high school juniors and seniors. She said there needs to be more services to help TAG students before they reach their junior year.

Randy Tweten, a former member of the La Grande School Board, said he would like to see the district appoint a coordinator for TAG , one who would be paid a stipend. He said the appointment of a coordinator would make it easier for everyone who is a part of the program to “be on the same page.’’

Another concern expressed at the meeting concerned pay-to-play fees. Middle school and high school students must pay them before they can participate in a sport or an activity program like FFA or Future Business Leaders of America. High school students are charged $150 a sport and $60 per activity.

Budget committee member Sam Wiseman, noting that LHS’s pay-to-play fee is higher than most in the region, said he would like to see the fee reduced to $100 per sport. He said the current fee structure creates a financial hardship for many families.

Bill Burns, LHS’s athletic director, who had been asked to look into this issue after the committee’s May 30 meeting, confirmed that the school district’s pay-to-play fee is higher than most in the region including all members of LHS’s class 4A conference, the Old Oregon League. Among GOL members, the fee is $75 per sport at Baker High School, $50 per sport at McLoughlin High School and at Ontario High School there is no fee. Class 4A schools with pay-to-play fees at least as high as La Grande’s include Crook County Hight School, which has a $150 per sport fee.

La Grande would lose $26,000 a year from its athletic and activity program budget if it cut its pay to play to $100 a sport, Burns said. Such a loss of funding, he said, would require athletic contest schedules to be reduced and could force some sports or activity programs to be cut. 

The budget committee did not make any recommendations regarding changing pay-to-play fees. The school board will vote on adoption of the committee’s recommend budget when it meets June 20.

  

 
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