A second draft of the Community School District’s school budget was presented at the CSD school board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 2.
Superintendent Mark Jenkins said he and the administration are “still tinkering and continuing to refine” the budget. The budget is coming in at an increase of about 3.25 percent, or a $214,788 increase from the current year’s budget for a total of $6,827,284. Jenkins said the system is still on track to receive $120,000 more next year in state funding than it received this year, though that number has still not been finalized. Jenkins said he remains confident the budget increase can be trimmed to 3 percent.
Staffing at the elementary school is expected to remain constant, with some increased budget items at the high school, including $35,000 for participation in the state’s laptop program, a .88 full-time equivalent study hall monitor and a full-time librarian aide, who would spend four days at the high school and one day at the elementary school, with the elementary school librarian coming to the high school one day per week.
Elementary school principal Mike Benjamin reported on NECAP testing scores. Scores held steady or declined in every cohort (group of students over time) in reading and in math. Benjamin reported out on test results by grade, and offered a series of suggestions for ways to improve test scores and address potential problems.
Some of the suggestions were specific for improving students’ performance on the NECAP tests, including providing a healthy breakfast for students and teaching students specific vocabulary they would encounter on the test (such as “contrast” and “infer”).
Other suggestions included aligning the math curriculum, providing more training for teachers for proctoring tests and assessments such as the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy test.
In terms of weaknesses in the curriculum, Benjamin identified writing as an area where more effort needs to be placed to improve students’ skills.
Board member Andy Vaughn asked what measures were being taken to help what he determined to be the 21 percent of children who scored “substantially below proficient” in either reading or math.
Benjamin said teachers are still being trained in the Response to Intervention process, a way of intervening with students who are struggling. Next year, the RTI block of the school day will be longer and placed in a more central time, instead of at the end of the day.
In other business, Benjamin and elementary school special education teacher Betsy Stevens presented a “Life Skills Program” proposal. The program would incorporate life skills in Individualized Education Plans for those students identified by a specific set of assessments. The program would help students with issues of personal development like hygiene, self-esteem and decision-making, relating to others, and “life management” skills such as how to shop and basic computer skills. Currently, the draft proposal identifies eight students in the elementary school who would be suitable for the program for the 2013-14 school year. Stevens said there may be additional students at the high school.
Board member Skip Greenlaw asked whether students would be pulled out of the general classroom and kept separate. Benjamin said some work will require small-group or pull out sessions with students, but the goal was not to provide an alternative to the classroom.
Stevens said the proposal requires no additional funding for the 2013-14 school year, as the current staff can handle the program. The program would request for 2014-15 an additional teacher and an additional ed. tech. to sustain the program split between the high school and the elementary school.
Jenkins presented a first draft of the 2013-14 school calendar. Due to the way holidays fall this year, school likely will start after Labor Day and won’t end until June 19.
Jenkins also asked board members whether they might be interested in seeking out the services of a grant writer to help the district pursue grant monies. Board member Linda Nelson said there were many experienced grant writers in the community. High school principal Todd West suggested an educational grant writer who “knows the field.”