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CKSD releases ‘discussion’ list, many teachers see as a programs cut list

Discussions about the looming reductions and cuts to next school year’s budget for the Central Kitsap School District are nothing new. Now there are potential programs and positions added into the discussions that are causing some teachers uncertainties.

With a $6.3 million budget shortfall for the 2012-2013 school year, the district began discussions in the fall and have compiled a list of items partially funded or not funded by the state. The list was briefly touched upon at last Wednesday’s Central Kitsap School Board meeting but was not made available for view on the projector for meeting attendees to see. It is available for anyone to look at on the district’s website.

Many teachers see it as a “cut list” since they correlate something not receiving state dollars to having to be eliminated — or at least reduced — since the district must tighten its financial belt. The district is not calling it a cut list.

“This is not a reduction list,” said Superintendent Greg Lynch at the school board meeting. “It is a discussion list.”

The items that will be discussed total $12.37 million worth of programs and positions that the state does not provide money for. While the list makes up different things, it includes the library program, school security, the district pool, district music budget and elementary teacher assistants, among many other programs.

Because of the snow fall, the first of three community budget meetings that was scheduled  for Wednesday evening was canceled and will be rescheduled.

Next Tuesday, Jan. 24, there is a community budget meeting scheduled for the evening at Central Kitsap High School. A second one will follow the next evening. The district wants to get feedback from community members about potential cuts for next school year, including discussion of the list.

Kay Daling, an elementary instrumental music teacher in the district, said one of her principals — she works at four schools teaching fifth and sixth grade orchestra — talked to her before last week’s school board meeting, letting her know that a list was going to be put on the table and that her program was included in it.

“My concern is we have this huge deficit and we do have to cut,” Daling said Tuesday. “And of course what I do is one of the things on the list.”

Daling has been teaching music in the district for 18 years and said that while sometimes a program like music could be overlooked, she said that music is a language of its own that teaches children how to communicate. For others, it connects them to school where they otherwise may be disenfranchised.

“This education is just as important as the other things we do,” she said.

The state does not provide any money for the fifth and sixth grade band and orchestra program. The cost of this program is $390,000. An additional item, the district music budget, costs $70,000, and is not funded by the state as well.

Another program, school libraries, which the state covers half the cost for, is on the “discussion list.” Even though 50 percent of the program is funded by the state, $1.25 million is not covered by the state.

Steve Trunkey, a librarian at Central Kitsap Junior High School, said there are much more to school library programs than what some people may assume.

When classes are doing research, teachers will collaborate with the librarians to help their students, Trunkey said. The librarian’s role also includes teaching students Internet safety, good note taking skills, efficient online researching methods, citing work properly and evaluating whether a source is reputable.

Librarians also teach students about new technology, Trunkey said, giving the example of introducing students to Comic Life, a software that allows captions to be added to photos and drawings, which is an easier tool for this type of work than Microsoft PowerPoint.

And unlike some programs that cater to a specific group of students, the libraries serve all students, Trunkey said.

“There are a couple misconceptions,” said Trunkey. “School librarians are teachers first.”

Extracurricular athletics and activities and the support positions, which the district receives no state money for, is the highest cost on the list of programs. The cost is $2.38 million.

The list includes 31 items in total, however some things are grouped together. For instance, community schools, district archives and science kit center are grouped as one item and cost $150,000 and is completely not funded by the state. Technology and one administrator are paired as one item, and the amount not funded by the state is $410,000.

The way some things are paired together on the list, or the lack of explaining how many exact positions one program equates to, is a problem because it is vague, according to some teachers.

“A program means what? Supplies and resources go? Or is it staff?” asked JD Sweet, a history teacher at Central Kitsap High School. “That’s part of the frustration for a lot of folks.”

Elizabeth Blandin, an English teacher at Central Kitsap High School, has similar opinions on the current information provided by the district.

“If [the list] says .4 administrator, is that one person or two people and parts of their job?” Blandin said.

Even though the list has been made available, Sweet said he wants to know what decisions the district has already made concerning the budget and what still needs to be discussed. Waiting until the end of the Legislative session when more definitive numbers on cuts will be available, doesn’t seem right.

“We can’t wait until spring. I find it hard to believe that they haven’t made any decisions now,” Sweet said. “Even when the district thinks they are doing something transparent, they aren’t.”

Kirstin Nicholson, president of the Central Kitsap Education Association, said any cuts to programs or certificated positions will decrease or eliminate services for students, which in turn will reduce the amount of individualized attention a student will receive.

The association’s members are made of teachers as well as other certificated staff.

“Members have expressed sadness upon seeing the list because the list brings us one step closer to something that none of our members want, and that is making cuts [to] programs and staff members that are directly connected to our students,” said Nicholson.

For now, it’s just the uncertainty that isn’t a good feeling for some.

“It’s very frustrating because we want to know what’s happening, but that’s not possible,” Daling said.

 

Central Kitsap School District community budget meetings

Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m., Central Kitsap High School

Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Olympic High School

(Wednesday’s meeting that was canceled due to snow will be rescheduled).

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