Outreach and partnerships with the larger Plateau community was the underlying theme of Monday's Enumclaw School Board meeting as local administrators continue to monitor proceedings in Olympia leading up to a final state budget.
Last week's Senate budget which included proposals such as cutting K-12 employees' pay by 3 percent, ending bonuses for nationally certified teachers after three years rather than 10 years, and further cuts to K-12 education that would increase class sizes, caught local educators by surprise.
"I think it was very shocking for the educational community to hear about the Senate budget," said Superintendent Mike Nelson. Speaking about the three budgets that have been released -- Gov. Chris Gregoire's, the House and the Senate: "In all of my years, I've never seen three budgets so far apart," he said.
The Legislature session ends on Sunday, April 24 but word is a special session will take place the week following the Easter holiday. Not having a finite deadline or a final budget makes it difficult in Enumclaw to proceed with anticipated reductions. "We're really trying to find out where the consensus is going to be, and it makes it difficult for us to plan to know where are our reductions, and we're under timelines with staff as well. [We're] trying to put all of the different pieces together. ... We know there's going to be reductions. We hope it leans more on the smaller end of reductions rather than the larger end of reductions."
The district has already reduced its budget by $3.5 million over the last four years, Nelson said. "[It] has been pretty significant and these reductions would be on top of that."
According to Nelson, Gregoire's budget translates to about $900,000 in reductions for the district while both the House and Senate budgets mean about $450,000 each, though the Senate budget also includes "really interesting language around the 3 percent pay reduction for K-12 staff. [We're] trying to weigh all those pieces plus transportation on top of it, so it's hard to even put numbers around it. A 3 percent reduction for our system represents between $600,000 and $800,000 of our budget."
Importance of Community, Partnerships
Funding is a hot issue for a lot of organizations outside the school district, and more so now and ever, it is important for the district to work with various entities in the community to ensure a quality of life and quality of education for its citizens, Nelson said.
Both Nelson and school board member Nancy Merrill shared a number of updates regarding community efforts and gatherings in the last week.
As a member of a Green River Community College , Nelson shared with board members the discussion topics there with college President Eileen Ely and the possible reformation of a Enumclaw-based task force that would work in the interest of the Enumclaw campus. This came after several people voiced concerns about the of the local campus due to the college's budget shortfall. Similarly, the last Thursday held its open house, giving community members a firsthand look at all of the social services it provides for those in need.
Merrill, who also serves as president of the Enumclaw Schools Foundation, announced that event in support of full-day kindergarten netted somewhere around $50,000 in funds collected. In addition to attendees having a good time, she said the important thing was that the program will be able to continue to fund scholarships to sustain one full-day class per elementary school in the district.
"It's a two-fold objective: to provide for those who really need it because they can't afford it and to be able to provide it to those who can afford it," she said of the event which was in its third year.
"We're very excited in this time of economic challenge that the community could come together, and particularly appreciate the continued support of our Rotary club and foundation to provide $10,000 toward that end. That's four scholarships from our Rotary for the third year in a row," she said.
- The board accepted and thanked the Muckleshoot Tribe for a number of donations to the district including:
- Donation of $1,500 to to be used for their ASB Leadership Program
- Donation of $7,000 to the Native American Program for the PowWow & blankets
- Donation of $1,500 to to be used for classroom enhancements
- Donation of $1,500 to to be used to purchase books
- Donation of $1,500 to to be used for classroom enhancements
- Donation of $1,500 to to be used to purchase a camcorder and digital cameras
- The board, minus Tamara Knapp Hancock, who was excused, approved amendments to six district policies including those related to nondiscrimination, student health, affirmation action, the district's annual organizational meeting and pesticide proceedings. You can find these policies online on the district website. The corresponding policies are No. 1210, No. 3210, No. 3410, No. 5010, No. 6220 and No. 6895.
- The board passed Resolution No. 962 in support of the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS). Merrill explained that NEWS had filed a lawsuit in 2009 over concerns that the state was not properly funding K-12 education and that the court ruled in 2010 in favor of NEWS. The state is now appealing that verdict in the state Supreme Court. Click here to read more about NEWS' efforts.
- Nelson proclaimed the week of May 2 to May 6 as Certificated Staff Week in recognition for all of the district's educators. Mike Sando, president of the Enumclaw Education Association was present to thank the board.
- Look for more information as the new school year comes around, but Nelson gave a sneak peek at some of the efforts the district is working on to combat violence and promote compassion and kindness through a project called 'Rachel's Challenge.' This too will be a community-wide project. Some tentative dates in September include a presentation for district staff on September 1, for Enumclaw High School on September 18, for both Thunder Mountain and Enumclaw middle schools on September 19 and September 20, and a community-wide event on the evening of September 20.