Setting the record straight - District was clear about funding maintenance position

By Chris Panike August 31, 2009 01:22 pm

John Deal has printed two editorials containing false information, thus we felt it was important that the general public be properly informed. The district has been diligent about making the 2009/10 budget cuts and resulting adopted budget transparent to all, thus we are providing the following information.

While building the budget for 2009/10 the district made it very clear that it intended to fund a position to support plant and operations, the position now held by Jim MacKay. This intent was discussed in an Observer article dated April 10, 2009, and titled “School district faces mammoth budget cuts.” Within this article, it was stated that the “La Grande High School athletic director position will be cut to half time. LHS’s athletic director will remain a full-time employee, though, for he will assume about half of the present plant operations director’s responsibilities”.

John Deal has printed two editorials containing false information, thus we felt it was important that the general public be properly informed. The district has been diligent about making the 2009/10 budget cuts and resulting adopted budget transparent to all, thus we are providing the following information.

While building the budget for 2009/10 the district made it very clear that it intended to fund a position to support plant and operations, the position now held by Jim MacKay. This intent was discussed in an Observer article dated April 10, 2009, and titled “School district faces mammoth budget cuts.” Within this article, it was stated that the “La Grande High School athletic director position will be cut to half time. LHS’s athletic director will remain a full-time employee, though, for he will assume about half of the present plant operations director’s responsibilities”.

In an Observer community comment by Superintendent Larry Glaze dated April 13, 2009, these budget cuts were discussed and interested parties were directed to the district’s website at www.lagrande.k12.or.us to view a document outlining the planned budget cuts. This document is still available from the district website and the link is located near the lower left corner of the website and is titled “Proposed 2009/10 Budget Cuts.” The proposed Stage 2 Budget Cuts outlined on page 7 of this document served as the template under which the 2009/10 budget was developed. Near the bottom of page 7 one can find the allocation of resources for this position. The two lines of interest in this discussion are titled “LHS Athletic Director” (.5 FTE cut) and “Add Back DO P&O TOSA” (.5 FTE) (otherwise stated as District Office, DO; Plant & Operations, P&O; Teacher On Special Assignment, TOSA).

This document was presented and discussed in detail on numerous occasions, including presentations to all staff members, the district’s Board of Directors in open public meetings and The Observer editorial board.

Budgeting is about the allocation of resources to fund well-defined positions and programs. In this situation, the person targeted to fill the above described position changed, but the need did not.

In June 2009, the employee holding the athletic director position decided to pursue a different path for his professional career within the district, thus the position needed to be filled. After a careful review of the needs, the district elected to divide the position and fill it with two employees. This was accomplished by hiring Bill Burns as a half-time athletic director and promoting Jim MacKay to the position of maintenance supervisor.

In regards to the maintenance supervisor position, this job was filled after all employees were notified of the job opening and the $15,000 stipend the position was to be paid. The district received applications from three qualified staff members and Jim MacKay was selected from that pool based on his excellent work history with the district.

In addition, by promoting one of our existing staff members, the district was able to fill the maintenance supervisor position for far less than it would have cost to hire a new employee, thus we are well within the cost of the plan presented to the public and built into the adopted 2009/10 district budget.

In regards to Mr. Deal’s other comments about contacting maintenance staff members, should you ever need to reach them, please start by calling Susie Nice at 541-663-3214.

We welcome your input and would like to extend an invitation to all interested parties to the Sept. 9 board meeting to discuss these concerns. This meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Willow School gym.

The 2009/10 budgeting process was also the subject of many other articles that are not mentioned here. The facts are that we worked very hard at making the budget cuts transparent, and we believe, based on the above facts, that we accomplished that task.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at 541-663-3206 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


Chris Panike is the director of business and operations for La Grande School District.