March 12 Board Meeting–Board Member Resigns, Coronavirus update and No Discussion on Sex Ed.

This is just a recap of the March 12, 2019 TSD Board meeting.  A couple prefatory notes (1) Unlike most of the Board meeting recaps, I added in quite a bit of commentary, and (2) For some perspective, this meeting was held the night before the Governor shut down schools statewide. 

There were a couple take home points from the Meeting(recorded audio can be found here):

Here are some highlights(with quite a bit of commentary from me):

  1. Rita Luce has retired. Rita served on the Board for over 15 years and the District is planning some type of ceremony.  The TSD Board plans to conduct interviews in early May.  With Rita’s retirement, the Board now has only one member who has served more than 5 months.
  2. As it routinely does, the Board approved the Consent Agenda, which deals with quite a number of significant fiscal issues. As is almost always the case, there was no discussion.
  3. Gender Inclusion policy and school calendar for 2020-21 were each approved without discussion.  I could not find these policies on the TSD website yet, but will get them up when links area available.  The drafts of these items discussed at the last board meeting are pictured in the blog we published from that meeting and can be found here.
  4. There was a first reading of the proposed revised graduation credits.  Each of the Board members who were present seemed engaged, and had questions for Shawn Batstone, who was presenting on the topic.  The version that is being circulated requires 24 hours of credit, but does allow for a waiver of up to 2 hours of credit.  Here is the link to the current requirements.  
  5. Coronavirus—-Sean updated the Board on the Coronavirus. The day of the meeting, King and Pierce County schools shut down until April 24th.  Sean went through many precautions being undertaken by TSD, some significant changes being made with respect to scheduling and building maintenance.  The theme was that TSD, and the other Thurston County Schools, would follow the direction of the Thurston County Public Health Department.   Sean was very thorough, and spent a lot of time talking about various courses of action being undertaken by TSD.

*******As it turns out, the day after the Board meeting all of the Thurston County schools followed suit and announced that all schools would be closed until April 24th.  

Notably, during the public comment period, Tim Voie, (TEA representative) used his time to talk about communication he has been receiving about the coronavirus.  He even pointed out that several of the teachers and other community members have concerns.  Tim expressed the cooperative work going on between TEA and TSD administration regarding potential issues that might arise(like closures).   However, the Board asked no questions of Tim, and engaged in no dialogue about the Coronavirus. 

Sean also talked about the possibility of online learning in the event of a closure, which seems unlikely in the short term given some state and federal requirements.  In essence, it sounds like OSPI is saying that TSD cannot provide online education to some students without provided the same opportunity for all students.  In talking with Sean, it sounds like there are some barriers to implementing an online program districtwide.   At the time of writing this, it appears OSPI is optimistic that a plan may be in place to provide online learning around March 30th

  1. Sex Education Bill—The School Board declined to discuss or take any action, regarding SB 5395

SB 5395 is a controversial bill awaiting the Governor’s signature that significantly revamps Sexual Education for K-12 students.  Here is a link to a recent blog I drafted on SB 5395. 

At least a few schools districts have taken a public position, advocating for their community.  Prior to the meeting, Sean Dotson advised me that the item could be added to the agenda if the Board deemed that it warranted attention. 

I, and many other TSD parents, asked the TSD Board to do the same and address SB 5395.    I received no response from any of the Board Members, which was surprising.  However, once I watched the Board meeting video, I realized the Board is going to take a “wait and see” approach, and does not intend to undertake a proactive approach in the short term.   

This was disappointing to me as I know many TSD families have strong opinions(both in favor and against).  What I do not know is how any of the Board members feel or what any of them would like to see happen.  Many districts have taken an active role in communicating with legislators, the governor and OSPI.  However, we have no indication what advocacy, if any, the TSD Board has undertaken.

I do appreciate the law, if signed, does not go into effect until 2021. However, many TSD families have asked TSD to advocate now, and the Board has declined to do so.  This lack of action is disappointing, especially given the routine absence of substantive discussion by the Board on important topics. 

  1. Breath of Fresh air during Board member comments.

Darby Kaikkonen used her Board member comment time to discuss a review of the attendance policy.  This was a breath of fresh air.  Darby had been reviewing some of the attendance policies, and put forth some concerns.   Sean Dotson indicated that he would work to further this discussion with the Board. 

The Board members routinely use their member comment time to talk about sporting events they have attended, musicals events they have attended, quality time spent in the schools, or other uplifting good events in the TSD community.  While I appreciate there are a lot of great things going on in TSD, we receive such a small amount of information from the Board members that I really appreciate a Board member actually discussing core board member functions(like TSD policies) during member comment time.  I  am hoping Darby has started a trend. 

The next meeting is set for March 26th, but it sounds like it will be done via electronic means.  

February 13 Board Meeting Recap

The board meetings are recorded and available at some point after the meeting on the District website.  I will do my best to summarize the meeting, but for the full report you can view the recording when it becomes available. 

All Board members were present.  The meeting was held at the District Office.  

PGS 3rd grade music students performed under the direction of Marie Williams, who also received special recognition, Chinook Region Music Educator of the Year.  

High School Student Representatives reported on the before and after school learning supports at their schools.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Katie Gates on disrespect by students.

Discussed the concern from teachers about the student behavior and disrespect teachers are enduring. Concern that teachers are leaving because of the disrespect from students. The concern is happening at all levels, they don’t feel safe and they will see it every day.

Melissa responded with a comment about Steilacoom SD focusing on Social and Emotional learning, and her disappointment that more parents aren’t at the Candace Lund-Bollinger classes put on by the District. (A list of classes is on the TSD website here).

Superintendent Dotson said he would follow up with Katie.

CONSENT AGENDA

No comments or questions, consent agenda was approved.

ACTION ITEMS

Resolution 06-19-20-Temporarily Altering the Establish Amount of the Unreserved Fund Balance of the General Fund. There was a change in the resolution paragraph, they removed the sentence that said the fund balance would never go below the minimum fund balance. They established a year end fund balance minimum of 4%, this allows them to go down to no lower than 3% if needed. Further discussion will be in the Superintendent report.

Rita expressed concern about going below the 4%. “I find this really upsetting. You know I know it’s an absolute necessity at this point that we have to do this, but I just want to stress how important this fund balance is to the stability of the District and how hard we need to work to bring it back up. Because that is what keeps us going and gives us an emergency fund for things that happen. We all know that they happen, and so I really encourage us to work on that to reinstate this to where it should be.”

Melissa asked how it effects the district bond rating, Jim explained that it is part of the rating, and he met with the Bond council this last week and they will be providing information about that question. (The bond rating affects the ability of our district to sell Bonds). Superintendent Dotson stated that the District is not trying to sell bonds right now, but if it isn’t recovered in the future that might affect the rating.

Rita asked how long this would effect our bond rating in the future.

Melissa asked if they would be able to make payroll every month. Jim stated they will make payroll every month.

Scott asked Superintendent Dotson to explain what the Fund Balance is used for. Superintendent Dotson explained how the fund balance goes up and down throughout the year based on when we get levy payments and when expenses occur. Their monthly payments are not equal. They need to keep the fund balance up to cover the lower payment months. He explained that what most districts like to have in the fund balance is one months expenses. One month’s expenses for TSD would be $7.8MM, so in the months where they get down to $2MM they are in an uncomfortable place. He said they will work to get the fund balance in a better place, in case of unforeseen expenses. The fund balance in good economic times can help cover when you get to lean times so you don’t have to cut programs. They want to get the fund balance back to a place where if they were the economy turns they need to be in a place where they have something solid to take care of the needs.

Resolution 06-19-20-passed.

2nd Reading-Revisions Policy 6220-Bid Requirements passed.

2nd Reading, Revisions policy 1400-Meeting Conduct Sean reminded them of the major changes, they took out the specific meeting times to allow some flexibility. They added a section on study sessions.

Melissa added it allows them to meet in the evening especially for study sessions. The said they would still visit the schools, but not necessarily as a meeting.

Rita asked about how they were going to get site reports from the schools. SI Dotson explained that since they were shifting to evening work sessions, they would have site reports prior to the meeting. They will also have times in the morning to visit the sites.

Revisions policy 1400-Meeting Conduct passed

2nd Reading, Revisions Policy 3131Attendance Area (Intra-District) Transfers A couple changes from the 1st reading, language about non resident students was removed since this is an intra-district policy and that language does not apply. A sentence was added to state that they District will provide applicants with written notification of approval or denial of the application in a timely manner. Rita asked if another boundary revision were to occur, would these polices work or would they need to be changed again. Superintendent Dotson explained that they should work.

The revision dates were also discussed. The date was unclear if that was the only times it had been revised or if that was only the latest time it was revised. Rita also stated there was a time they went through all the policies to update them since they hadn’t been updated in a while.

Policy 3131 passed.

Policy 3141 – Non-resident students. There are no changes with this policy. SI Dotson discussed the Thought Exchange, but did not feel there was any feedback that really impacted the policy. The feedback received was more related to the procedure.

Melissa thanked SI Dotson for facilitating the updating of these policies.

Policy 3141 passed.

The Board took a short break for 10 minutes.

OTHER BUSINESS

20/21 Budget Development and timeline.

Jim explained that they have been meeting with each building and looking at certificated staff and other staff needs at each of the buildings.

March 12 is the date for the legislative session to end, they are hoping for more equity from the legislature.

March 20th is the departments and building budget allocations will be sent out by Jim. The principals can decide where to put that funding in their buildings.

April 1st is the last day to turn in additional funding requests.

April 15th is the deadline to let the Bargaining Unions know if they will be planning a Reduction in Force. The deadline to send to the affected employees for Reduction in Force is May 15.

Draft Budget available to the public July 10, Final budget adopted August 27.

Melissa asked about the budget work session, they talked about doing that on July 23rd.

Melissa also asked for the budget to be divided by staff and building and staffing levels at each school.

Rita asked what they plan to do with the boundary changes and if the teachers are going to move with the students. Superintendent Dotson explained they are going through that right now, and they have met with the principals at each building and the HR team to start that discussion. He discussed the intersection with the transfer process. He hopes to accommodate all the kids who want to stay. They want to make as few shifts as possible. He mentioned staff additions, to serve all the students.

Rita asked if there was a deadline for students to decide if they are going to stay. Superintendent Dotson explained he would show the timeline in his Superintendent report.

Rita brought up the K-3 compliance, Jim stated TSD compliance is around $237K. He also stated TSD is not in compliance at the moment, they are at 17.4. They are working with HR to look at a couple positions that are split with LAP, and they can move those to help with the average and get it down to 17 so they don’t lose that funding. Jim stated the funds are minimal.

Superintendent Dotson also reminded the Board that the 17 is not an actual number, but an average of teachers, specialist etc to get to that average.

1st Reading, 20/21 School Year Calendar Beth Scouller discussed the proposed calendar for the next school year. Since Labor day is so late, they had the option of asking TEA if they would like to vote to have the school year start a week earlier. The teachers voted not to start early, so school is set to start the Wednesday after Labor Day (Sept 9, 2020 and end June 21, 2021). A few changes from the past practice were discussed. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a day off instead of a half day, due to the instructional hours needed. TEA suggested to try to build snow days into the school year, Feb 16 and May 28 would be scheduled as no school days unless there are days that need to be made up for snow or like in the past, a strike. February 16, the day after President’s Day is typically mid winter break, but May 28, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, has not typically been a day off in the past. The Board was concerned that teachers and students would consider these days off even if they were changed to school days and concern over having a Monday as the last day of school. There was a lot of discussion on this, so there still could be some changes. A copy of the proposed calendar is also available on our resources page.

1st Read Proposed 20/21 school year calendar

1st Reading, Policy 3211, Gender Inclusive Schools Language changed to match practices. A copy of this document is also available on our Resource page.

SUPERINTENDENT REMARKS

Enrollment– TSD enrollment is right around the budgeted number, they started out below, rose above it and then dipped below. This is a general trend for enrollment the past several years. A discussion on how numbers are calculated and why Skills Center and Running Start students aren’t counted. They don’t count them in enrollment for budgeting purposes since the money follows the student. They work with FTE(full-time Equivalents) for budget, so part time students are counted as part time for budgeting. Overall they are staying very close to the budgeted numbers.

Fund Balance

Superintendent Dotson showed the graph from last month for the fund balance. The fund balance follows the typical trend lines of previous years. This month they dropped from $4 MM to $3MM, the minimum fund balance of 4% is at $3.8MM. So they have been above that number until this month. Each year there is a dip around this time of year and increases in October and April when they get the Levy money. This year October Levy money was not as much as last year since they put a cap on what could be collected, but April should be higher since they increased the cap. There was also talk of CTE enrollment being higher at the middle level and therefore the amount OSPI distributed was more. This may not be a true increase since CTE courses offered this fall may have been the courses offered in last spring and it may drop in the Spring. TSD predicts (using OSPIs estimator tool) that they will end the year right around the 4%. Superintendent mentioned they like to keep one months expenses in the fund balance and for Tumwater that would be $7.8MM, they are at about $3.8MM. With a bottom out number in March of $1.9 MM or 2%.

Some things they are watching that will impact the budget, CTE enrollment, SEBB payments, any employee over 630 hours will require TSD to pay into SEBB and TSD is planning for an increase in SEEB costs due to this change. Next year bargaining, step increases, increases in Sped and unexpected costs (the car breaks down) are all factors that will effect the fund balance. Superintendent Dotson has mentioned that they intend to work to get the fund balance back up.

Transfer Policies

Both transfer policies were approved. Superintendent Dotson explained the other side of that is the procedures that they have been working on. He mentioned the community was concerned about the order in which transfers were accepted. He mentioned the Thought Exchange and the feedback that was received. He stated he didn’t see anything that changed substantially, there are differing opinions and not everyone will agree. He stated the vast majority seems to continue to lean toward this being the right order. (I wrote a blog with the details you can read here or you can look at the documents on our Resources page).

In summary:

1-full-time staff children, by law, have first priority.

2-intra-district students continuing at the school they are currently enrolled(further divided to give boundary displaced students top priority). A discussion on the boundary changes occurred and Superintendent Dotson felt this procedure would work if another revision were to occur, he also stated this is not a guarantee that they will be accepted, but that they will be given priority.

3-intra-district siblings of students currently enrolled in a school

4-New Intra-district Students

5-Non-Resident renewals

6-Non-resident Siblings

7-New non-resident requests.

If enough spots are not available to accommodate all the applications, a lottery will occur at that level. No more first in first accepted.

Timeline for requests:

March -Most of the requests would be received beginning in March. All the full-time staff, intra-district renewals, new intra-district requests for 1st -12 grades. And then renewals for non-residents. At the end of March they could accept transfers in the order above, employing a lottery if needed.

April-new Non-resident requests. And then at the end of April they should have a good idea of how many spots they have available.

August-Kindergarten requests. The uncertainty of how many Kindergarteners they will have makes it difficult to accept transfers any earlier than August.

Annual Verification

Superintendent Dotson mentioned a lot of concern on the Thought Exchange for annual verification. He was hesitant to employ this as a District wide verification, but the procedures allow for a school wide or a grade level if they deem it necessary. Peter G was mentioned as a pilot school for this project.

Legislative Update

No levy or staff funding bills have moved out of committee before the deadline. Although if the members have a bill they really want to get through, they can deem it necessary to implement.

Senate Bill 6117 is a Special Education Appropriations Bill is part of this session. It is a bill recommended by OSPI which will provide a small increase in funding for Special Education.

There was a bill to correct for districts like TSD who have Senior staff, but are not receiving extra funding, but this does effect the budget Superintendent Dotson said he is watching to see if that bill ends up going anywhere, since it didn’t make the cutoff.

This is a list of bills with cost implications that did make the cutoff:

These are all bills that will cost more money and no extra appropriations for them.

February 27 Work Session

The following list are the topics they plan to discuss at the February 27 work session. Rita asked about adding the Diversity Policy, Superintendent Dotson explained they would need to cut something to add that in. Melissa asked about highly capable and accelerated enrollment.

BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS

Scott Killough mentioned that he has not been able to attend many things during the day, but attends things in the evenings. He attended Little Women, Momma Mia, the men’s and women’s basketball games. He is trying to get to each elementary PTA PTO meetings.

Rita Luce-met with legislators. She mentioned Olympia SD possibly changing the school start times. She attended the basketball games.

Casey Taylor-At the board meeting last month, they got to walk around BHHS, and the next day met with Lisa Summers and played some pickleball with the students. He also met with Jeff Broom and walked around THS. Attended basketball games for girls and boys. He attended the legislative conference but was disappointed in the politicians.

Darby Kaikkonen- attended the basketball game, She continues to be part of BMS PTO, She appreciated attending the legislative conference, and plans to visit Lisa Summers at BHHS.

Melissa Beard-She too went back to BHHS the day after the meeting to play pickleball with Lisa Summers. She visited THS for her alumni association, She mentioned she noticed THS had a meeting for Spanish speaking families, this group meets the first Tuesday of each month to help them understand the resources available. Next month they will be learning about Skyward. She attended the Momma Mia and Little Women. Talked about the sign holding for the Levy and thanked the community for the support.

Regular meeting recessed to Executive Session to discuss Personnel Performance, Evaluation or Qualifications for Employment

January 23, 2020 Board Meeting Recap

Casey Taylor, Melissa Beard and Darby Kaikkonen were present. Scott Killough and Rita Luce were not present. The Board meeting was held at BHHS. You can view the recording here. I have summarized a few topics from the meeting.

Superintendent Dotson recognized the Board members for Board Member Appreciation month. The student representatives were also recognized. They were each given a “small token”.

Lily Campbell and Ansley Campbell were recognized for their work in the club they created, the Girls Outreach Club.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Jacob Meyers for Pathways for Hope spoke about the efforts in preventing human trafficing. He invited people to attend their meeting that was held on January 30 to help with child trafficing prevention.

CONSENT AGENDA

Darby asked Mel to explain a change order. Basically it is something that comes up during a project that will cost more money, and they ok the “change order” to keep the project going with the added cost of what is contained in a change order. Mel gave a couple examples of times it has happened.

Consent Agenda was approved

ACTION ITEMS

Resolution 06-19-20-temporarily altering the established amount of the unreserved fund balance of the general fund.  The minimum fund balance is set at 4%, but during this year, keeping the budget as is, the fund balance will go below this set amount.   They hope to end the year at the 4% Fund Balance.  If they keep the language at “may not fall below” then they are in violation because they are below that number.  Superintendent Dotson asked to look at the language and make changes where needed.  He also showed the Fund Balance trends, this year TSD will hit near the zero balance at about $1.4 M in March, but should trend back up in April based on the levy collections.  We should end above the 4% in June.  If they were to prevent form ever going below the 4%, they would have had to make several more staffing cuts last spring.  It would have to cut $2.5 M in cuts.  He was asking to get approval to change the language to be able to go and end below the 4%.  A challenge in ending at the 4%, is that we would be starting 2020/21 school year $2 M lower than TSD started at in 2019/20.  There are some expenses in September 2020, which would put the Fund Balance below that $2 M mark again.  Sean insured that they have money to pay all their bills at this point.

Melissa mentioned that TSD received hold harmless money last year that they will not receive this year.  Based on TSDs estimate of $2.2 MM, the Board decided not to send out RIF notices last year, (eliminating the ability to reduce staff if needed).  As it turned out, TSD only received $200K, Melissa stated that is why they are in this position.   

THS Batting Cage Building: Tim Graham asked for a separate building for Softball and Baseball for practicing in inclement weather. Appears to be just asking for approval to have a community funded project to be built. Board approved the donation and the planning for the new batting cage building.

OTHER BUSINESS

Revisions to bid requirements in Policy 6220, just updating to follow WASDA policy model created by OSPI to adhere to state and federal regulations. May be added to Consent Agenda with no changes.

Meeting Conduct-1st reading Policy 1400. Changing board meeting times. Superintendent Dotson asked to change the language in the policy to not specify times and dates, leave it more flexible.

Transfer process policies 1st Reading:

Policy 3131 and Policy 3141(both can be found on our resource documents page).  Superintendent Dotson explained the process up to this point; Thought Exchange, Community Work Group (you can check out my previous Blogs on this subject herehere and here).  The Policies were updated to be in alignment with this process, legislative language and what other local districts have in place. This is policy, but there is also a procedure which is written by the Superintendent.  

Legislative Priorities:

Superintendent brought a list of priorities.

Special Education-used ESD language (shortage in Sped Funding). Recommending for Legislation to fully fund Special Education.

Equitable Funding-inequity in funding regionally as well as statewide. Recommending expand the experience factor to reduce inequities, and correct regionalization to provide funding based on an areawide workforce model.

Staffing Enrichment-Increase funding for school nurses, counselors, social workers and safety officers.

Board Committees/Assignments:

Legislative Representative- Rita Luce, renew or update? Tabled since she was not present.

WIAA representative- Casey Taylor

Technology Committee Representative – Casey Taylor

Military Representative – Darby Kaikkonen

Budget Committee Representative- Melissa Beard

Graduation Taskforce – Melissa will talk to Scott Killough?

Replacement Levy Representative – Melissa Beard

 

SUPERINTENDENT REPORT

Equity Programs – Sean Batstone looked into partnering with SPSCC equity groups, there was a conference Jan 24. Each HS sent a representative to the conference.

Enrollment:

Enrollment reports usually include Skills Center Enrollment, but they are separate. Tumwater West and Open Doors also contribute. Funding for Running Start and Skills Center go directly to those programs.

Projected enrollment.
Actual Enrollment

The actual enrollment in December was a net positive 15.4 students.  However, when you look at January, enrollment was a net negative 8.9 students from projections.

January Actual Enrollment

Looking at trends for enrollment it starts low and then increases and then drops down again. Budget should be done with the Skill Center and Running Start numbers removed.

Enrollment trends

They estimate the numbers based on past years. Skill Center stays about 300, Running Start was estimated based on projected enrollment. Running Start is expected to grow. A discussion on conservative budgeting, using conservative numbers for budget purposes.

Superintendent’s Remarks:

The following chart shows the next steps for budget planning to get the fund balance back to where it needs to be.

Staffing. They need to begin early staffing planning. With the boundary changes, staffing changes will need to occur to accommodate those changes.

Transfer Workgroup Update.

Main points in the changes to the policies and procedures.

The main change was the intra-district requests will be prioritized before nonresident requests, this was done based on the thought exchange and community requested that TSD residents should be prioritized above nonresidents.

By law staff would be prioritized first. Then the students impacted by boundaries would be prioritized next. Siblings will be prioritized within each group.

If there are not enough space in each group, how do you decide who gets the spots Historically they have used a first in time. There are problems with determining who is actually first. We need to provide something with greater equity, so if they get to a group without enough spaces to take everyone, then a lottery would be implemented.

The proposed timeline:

New Kindergarten applications would not be accepted until August 1.

Timeline:

The Community Forum held on January 27. Since it was such short notice, they also put out a Thought Exchange for the new procedures. Superintendent Dotson realizes that these policies and procedures will not please everyone. Homeless students are not under these policies.

Casey Taylor asked about staffing, and budget. The timelines are set so that the high schools can have master schedules set so they can determine where they have room or not.

Superintendent has been giving several presentations on the Levy, to get accurate information out there.

BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS

Darby -met with District leadership members, attended graduation pathways forum, spending time in schools. Attended the Tumwater-BHHS wrestling match. Her son wrestles as an 8th grader.

Casey -Thanked Ainsley and Lily, thanked Dave Meyer, thanked Jacob Meyer. He met with District Leadership team, thanked the leadership team. Thanked Mel Murray. Was at wrestling meet. He went to girls and boys basketball games.

Melissa- bought tickets for BHHS musical, gave play schedule. The choreographers were highlighted in Thurston Talk. Thanked BHHS leadership for their work with the promoting student leadership with the play.

Dec 12 Board Meeting Recap


This blog is just a quick recap of some highlights from the December 12, 2019 Board Meeting.  When doing these updates, I generally only cover the action items(which is a minority portion of the meeting).   The full audio recording can be found here.  

CONSENT AGENDA APPROVED

As it routinely, does, the Board approved the “Consent Agenda.”  Frankly, I am unclear as to the process with the Consent Agenda.  The items are never discussed during the meeting, but do appear on the approved minutes.  The content is mostly employee changes and general financial data.  I plan to do some investigation and will provide clarification in a later blog.    

THREE NEW MEMBERS SWORN IN

The Board welcomed Casey Taylor, Scott Killough and Darby Kaikkonen as Directors.  They join Rita Luce(joined 2005) and Melissa Beard(joined 2016).  

SECONDARY OPTIONS RENAMED

Mel Murray led a committee to make recommendations to the Board regarding renaming the school and building formerly known as Secondary Options.  As recommended by the committee, the Board approved naming the building THE TUMWATER LEARNING CENTER and renaming the school CASCADIA HIGH SCHOOL.   

That was it for action items, but there were some interesting reports. . .

FACILITIES UPDATE

Mel Murray seems to be a great asset for TSD.  He has a wealth of knowledge, manages multiple projects at the time, and is really good at providing simple and understandable information without oversharing.  Nothing overly groundbreaking in Mel’s report, but he did share a slide showing the vacant property TSD currently owns.  I thought it was worth sharing.  

SD-Property

BUDGET DISCUSSIONS

The Board did spend 45 minutes or so talking about budget issues.  Jim Brittain and Sean Dotson did most of the talking, while the Board members asked questions and sought insight about some of the difficult financial decisions the Board must make over the course of the next few months or so.  As many of you know, I have been critical of the Board in the past due to what I perceive as a lack of interest in the financial matters of TSD.  This meeting was refreshing, and I hope the discussions continue.  

As a reminder, the projected deficit during the 2019/20 school year is about $2.5 million, meaning TSD budgeted to spend about $2.5 million more than it will receive in income.  Compounding the financial difficulties, as part of the budget crisis last year, the Board approved a resolution where the minimum Fund Balance(TSD’s Savings account) was set at 4% of the total budget(about $90 million).  Here is a chart showing the historical level of the fund balance.  Note the current fund balance is several million dollars less than prior years.  

und-BalanceDec-2019

In essence, TSD must have about $3.5 million in savings at the end of each year.  Sean advised the Board that, without significant and immediate reductions in spending, it is highly likely the fund balance will be less than $3.5 million at the end of the 2019/20 school year, and most certainly will dip below that level during the first few months of 2020. 

The Board discussed some priorities, but appeared unwilling to direct Sean to make substantive reductions at present. It sounded like Sean is going to come back to the next meeting with some options for consideration by the Board.

Because TSD started with a much lower fund balance from a historical perspective, it does not have the luxury of running at a deficit in the upcoming years.   Unless there are additional funding resources, TSD will need to cut at least a few million dollars from its budget just to break even next year.  

Last year, the Board did not take action until it was much too late and the options became limited.  The Board continually deferred any decisions with the hope that TSD would have an enrollment upswing, or the Legislature would provide more funding, neither of which occurred.  With the Superintendent change, and three new Board members, I am hopeful this Board will be more proactive.  Difficult and undesirable action is inevitable and it is my hope they get to the discussion promptly.      

ENROLLMENT UPDATE

Enrollment continues to be a “hot” topic at the Board meetings.   Enrollment at TSD has consistently decreased over the last 2 years, and appears to be on a pretty level trend.   TSD’s enrollment currently sits at the same level as 2015/16.  Notably, enrollment traditionally decreases throughout the year.   Here is a chart showing enrollment numbers since 2013.  

nrollmentDec-2019

Enrollment is one of the most crucial components of the budget as virtually all of the state funding is tied to the number of students enrolled(Enrollment does not affect levy funds as TSD gets the same amount of levy money regardless of enrollment)

I am curious about the staffing levels at TSD.  Like many operations, TSD largest expense is staff costs(well over 70% of the budget).  It is difficult to make substantive changes to the budget without considering staff expenditures. TSD will have to navigate this very trick terrain in the upcoming months. I wonder if the staffing levels are closer to 2017/18 levels(when enrollment was at 6800) or in line with 2015/16 levels(when enrollment was where it sits today—about 6500).   I plan to do a blog on the topic within the next month or so.   

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

Sean’s reports are pretty direct.  His primary focus was seeking some clarity from the Board as to what they wanted him(and TSD) to focus on during the next legislative session.  Sean suggested that TSD should try to focus on the same topics as statewide organizations(OSPI, WASDA, ESD 113 and WEA), and pool resources.  This makes sense. It sounds to me like the organizations are all going to try and convince the legislature that there are still inequities, and state funds do not approach that which is necessary to educate students.  

Sean also indicated he had talked with multiple legislators, many of whom indicated that the State Transportation Department will “occupy most of the air in the room” with respect to budgeting, and education would not receive much attention at all.  

CONCLUSION

That is it for now.  Tami or I will continue to provide routine updates regarding what happens at the Board meetings.  

October 10th TSD Workshop update

TSD held another Work Session on October 10th.  There were three main topics (1) Filling the vacancy on the Board, (2)Revising the Superintendent evaluation process and (3) Discussion about the amount and type(s) of levies and bonds that will be on the February ballot. 

I gave an overview of levies and bonds in my prior blog, so I am just going to stick with the discussion points brought up at the meeting.  I am really loving these Workshops.  The TSD Board and Administration talk about pressing topics, exchange ideas, assign out tasks, and makes decisions.  Very informative.  


CURRENT VACANCY—Khalia Davis resigned on September 25th, leaving her position vacant.  Khalia is unopposed on the upcoming November ballot, but has indicated she will not accept the position if elected(which is almost a certainty) since nobody else is on the ballot.  As some of you may know, Khalia has endorsed me, and I have agreed to put my name in as a write in candidate.   Assuming Khalia gets the most votes, the position will remain vacant until the Board appoints a successor.  The Board indicated that it will likely start interviews shortly after the election.  If you are interested in applying, the announcement and application process should be outlined fairly soon.  The Board suggested the public may be involved in the interview process to some degree, which would be a great change.  

SUPERINTENDENT EVALUATION PROCESS—It appears as if the TSD Board is in the process of developing an evaluation for the Superintendent. I have not been involved with process in the past, but it appears there was a system used on prior occasions, with the Board hoping for some improvements.  I will be candid, this seemed like much ado about nothing from my perspective.  Coming from the private sector, I am used to evaluations being comprised of occasional sitdowns with employees to see how things are going.  Spending hours discussing, and conducting, an evaluation is a foreign concept to me.  I do not want to minimize the importance, I am just admitting this is not an area with which I am familiar or have much interest.  I will leave any real discussion for others who are passionate about the topic.  

BONDS AND LEVIES—As a refresher, there are 3 potential propositions TSD can put up for taxpayer consideration with the February election:(1) CONSTRUCTION BOND–to build a new school, (2) CAPITAL LEVY–to fund maintenance, technology, repairs and building improvements; and (3) EP&O LEVY–to fund gaps between what the state provides and what it actually cost to educate students.

CONSTRUCTION BOND—Superintendent Dotson started the discussion by encouraging the Board to hold off on asking for a Construction Bond.  He indicated this would be a “big ask” of taxpayers, and is the least pressing of the concerns.  There has been some discussion in prior meetings about possibly needing a new elementary school.  Dotson said he has worked with the facilities group and there is a high level of confidence that we have sufficient capacity for the next 4 or 5 years.   The Board appeared to accept Dotson’s recommendation as there was no substantive discussion about a Construction Bond.  

CAPITAL PROJECTS LEVY—TSD has a list of “needs” regarding repairs, retrofitting, maintenance, etc. of facilities.  The list also includes a few million dollars in technology upgrades/maintenance(chromebooks) and about $1.8MM for the preliminary planning of a new school–which Dotson indicated may not be needed for several years.  The wish list is about $6.3MM per year for the next two years.    Here is the chart:

TSD needs to get voter approval to fund this work.  The TSD Admin pitched proposals between $5MM and $7.5MM per year, for the next two years.  An “ask” of $6MM would equate to about $1 per $1000 for a taxpayer, or about $300 for a $300,000 piece of property.  TSD voters have routinely approved levies of this nature in the past.  


As the discussion progressed, Rita Luce and Andrea McGhee expressed reservation about tax increases being experienced throughout the county, and suggested that $.75 per $1000 might be a more appropriate ask.  Kim Reykdal seemed on board with this.  That would result in about $10MM being collected, with the cost on a $300,000 property being around $225 to the property owner.  Melissa Beard appeared to agree, while pointing out that Mel Murray(Director of Facilities and Capital Projects) and his crew do a great job with what they have.  For what its worth, I agree with Melissa.  I deal with a lot of construction projects.  There are many moving parts that need to be managed.  Mel does a great job in leading a team that serves the citizens of Tumwater well, especially given the constraints of a pretty fixed budget.  

I am pretty confident TSD will ask the citizens of to kick in about $5MM per year over the next two years as a Capital Projects Levy.   

EP&O LEVY

The EP&O Levy(formerly known as M&O) is the biggest decision point as far as I am concerned.  TSD intends to ask for $2.50 per $1,000, which is the maximum allowed under current law.  Once again, TSD voters have consistently approved the M&O(now EP&O) levies in this range.  There was little discussion on this topic and everyone appeared to be in agreement.  The focus of most of the discussion centered on a campaign to get the word out, and educate voters.      

As noted previously, the EP&O funds have become a necessity in TSD.  Failure to pass an EP&O levy during 2020 would have dire consequences and result in drastic cuts.  

SOME COMMENTARY

The Board, as we all do, clearly understands that the climate is a little different this go around.  None of us knows if the bargaining issues will result in a different temperament amongst the voters. From my perspective, there are some basic budgeting priorities that also need to be addressed, chief among them the out of district transfer student policy.  As a taxpayer, it would be hard for me to support a levy unless TSD changes its practice of failing to follow its own out of district transfer policy. 

As I have outlined in previous blogs, I also have concerns about many of TSD’s budgeting practices.  The upside, at least as far as I can tell, is that the new Superintendent seems intent on addressing those issues head on,  and is willing to make some tough decisions.  Further, the Board engaging in thoughtful discussion during recent Board meetings is encouraging.  

As always, we welcome feedback and also encourage you to contact the TSD Board members with your thoughts.  

9/26/19 Board Meeting Recap

Agenda-can be found here.

The time was not published on the calendar, and the agenda had the meeting starting at 8:30 am, I did arrive about 8:45am, but when I arrived they were discussing the unexcused absent policy.  I am not sure of exactly what I missed of the meeting, since they were rearranging the agenda to accommodate those who were listed on the agenda.    I do believe I missed the discussion on Policy 6100 regarding “REVENUES FROM LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL SOURCES” found here.  I would encourage those of you interested in the meeting agenda items, to watch for the recording to show up on the website-here.  

I plan to have a couple follow-up blogs about items discussed during this meeting, mainly the need for a new elementary and middle school, so watch for those blog articles in the future.

Policy 3122

The policy can be found here.  The discussion was mainly surrounding what they would count as unexcused absences leading to suspension, and how they would be handling continued unexcused absences.  It is no longer attached to kids who are not attending school(ie home hospital, etc).  They discussed some special circumstances surrounding the policy.  For more information and more of the discussion, please see the video when they publish on the TSD site.

Ballot Measure Discussion

Cory Plager-D A Davidson

It appears DA Davidson was hired to advise the district and board on the types of bonds and levys they could put on the ballot.  He went through the basic types and then talked about application of each one.  The discussion included whether or not they would put together a levy/bond proposal to include both the M&O items and the new school or do one for the M&O and then later ask for the new school.  Below are the slides presented showing the different types of bonds/levys and taxes generated by different types of levys/bonds.

The options available:

The Pros and Cons of a voter approved bond.  The major con they discussed was the super majority.  They would need 60% of the voters to approve, and they have to have at least 40% of the voters who vote in the general election vote on the measure.  A discussion of timing based on which election the school bond would follow.  However, decisions need to be made quickly to get any measure on the February ballot. The filing deadline to do so is December 13, 2019.  

They discussed non-voted bonds.  These have more restrictions and depending on the amount, would require a public hearing.  They discussed using something like this to pay for planning a new elementary school.  

They discussed the success of bonds passing based on having M&O (maintenance and operations) proposals linked to a Capital Project (new construction).  They pointed out that single proposals pass at a lower rate than running multiple proposals at the same time.  I am not sure what their data depicts as far as what areas they encompass:

They also looked at the assessed values in our area.  Notice the upward trend the past few years, with a 7.7 % preliminary growth predicted for our area.  He discussed this possibly being low, since they don’t have all the new construction calculated in.  

The levy that passed a few years ago is set to end, and the funds collected will also decrease.

The tax rate history was also discussed.  The amount TSD has been able to collect in the past was a great deal higher than after the McCleary decision. The “fix” increased the amount from $1.50 to  $2.50, which will start in 2020 and is not depicted on this graph.  Projected collections are in the next slide.

This shows the total increase based on the McCleary Decision fix.

This slide shows the amount collected if they were to put a 2 year proposal together based on different rates.  They are calculating based on a 6% growth (previous slide has a 7.7% growth).  I believe this was a discussion just based on collecting for the maintenance and operations proposal.  

The district has approximately $12 million in maintenance and operations (M&O) costs that they are looking to obtain funds to pay for.   Below is the itemized list of items needing funds:

Each of these items were discussed, student devices include chrome books replacement and new implementation, Staff devices-computers etc will need to be replaced, building and classroom technology.  Also on the list was preplanning and design of a new elementary they discussed how this would be a shortcut to getting the school built faster as this would take a year off the implementation if they ran a separate levy to build a school.  I haven’t looked at the budget approved at the last meeting and am not sure if these are already on the proposed budget or if these are new items.

Superintendent Report 

I will paraphrase his discussion as best as I can.  

He started out with a followup.  He discussed the issued brought up by the PGS staff due to the increased numbers they have experienced this year.  When they first noticed the population growth happening they added another kindergarten teacher and paraeducator positions.  He discussed the strain this puts on the rest of the staff-mainly the counseling staff.  PGS has over 600 students.  The state funds counselors at 1 per 800 student at the elementary level.  Our schools are receiving more than is funded at the state level.  The district feels there is a need and have funded more counselors at the schools.  Adding administrators does take some strain off this need, but is not as good as a counselor.  PGS has a Principal and a full-time Assistant Principal.  They do not have funds to provide another counselor at this time, and they are looking at problem solving in this area.  

Kim asked if the staff from Together which is housed at PGS could offer some services, Sean did say Together does have a site coordinator and that does provide an additional resource.  He did say they were going to look at that option as well to help.

The discussion then turned to the projections at both the elementary and middle level with putting together a bond and/or levy in the near future.  The district is planning on building new elementary school and discussed the possibility of a new middle school.  The slides used in the discussion were put together by Parametrix last year for the Boundary Review Committee.  (I plan to write a blog on this particular topic).  Using these predictions, Sean concluded that “we know we have a need for additional facilities.”  

He discussed the to-do list.  He went through the items on the following slide.  

They discussed the bond to upgrade technology, but mentioned this bond is used up.  So there will be a need to replace and upgrade those devices in the future.  This would be continued implementation to get all the schools to a 1 to 1 ratio on chrome books as well as replacements.  Jim clarified that there is still money in the bond to complete the implementation, but they are going to need to do something to get replacements.  Sean did explain they are looking into the benefit of the  1 to 1 chromebook benefits.  This will be discussed later as they get information about the benefits.  

He discussed the safety upgrades they feel are needed at several of the schools.  Cameras need installation and upgrades, sprinkler systems need installation and upgrade.  Power lines owned by the district need to be replaced.  

If all the projects were to be completed, they would need $12.7 million.  This brought on the discussion of going through with a bond right now to build a school, do you back burner these projects, do you package these with the new school?    A 2 year Capital Levy was discussed to cover these costs instead of running the school bond at this time.  (see slide presentation above).  And then as this expires come back with the bond for the new school.  Trying to keep the tax rate steady.  He discussed putting in the planning for a new school in the capital levy to cut some time off the school being started if they waited to propose the new school levy.  They discussed taking 3 years to get the building built after the bond passes.  The earliest a school being built would be approximately 2024.  

The middle school and high school boundaries were brought up.  Sean did mention that they are trying to address transfer processes before they can go into a secondary boundary adjustment discussion.  They are asking Jim Duggan to again help with the transfer policies both inter district (transfers from other districts) and intra district(transfers within our district).  And in the spring start work on the secondary boundary adjustment discussion with an implementation in the following fall.

They hope to have the transfer policies in place so that families that have been affected by the boundary adjustments can make decisions well in advance.  

Kim brought up her opinion for the need to add a middle school with the elementary also.  (watch for my future blog on this topic).  Trying to keep boundary adjustments off until they add a new middle school.    

It was brought up by Jim that in order to get state funds for a new school you have to have a significant amount of students in portables or you don’t get those funds.  

Mel also brought up that with the enrollment down the state will look at trends, which the last 2 years has been down.  The rest of the board and superintendent seemed to think that this was not the case.  (I plan to discuss this in a future blog).

The discussion led to what they were to propose for the capital levy vs. pairing it with the school bond vs. do nothing.  Kim brought up that if we waited until next year to do the school bond, it would be after a presidential election and therefore would require more voters to validate the vote, which the board or superintendent seemed apprehensive about doing this

Andrea stated she would support the early levy to cover the preplanning of a school.  Rita brought up that this discussion will be a big part of their upcoming budget workshop.  Kim asked to get information on just an elementary school vs an elementary school with a middle school.    

Sean did mention that they would also be looking at what type of bond/levy the board would support.  Rita asked for a prioritized list.

Another elementary and high school were also brought up as possibilities for future.

Some fun facts with numbers in the district presented by the Superintendent:

90.5 -the percentage of the school year remaining.

15,250 – the number of meals prepared by food services each week.

83.1 – percentage of students who averaged fewer than 2 absences a month.

10 – the percentage of instruction missed by students having more than 2 absences a moth.

Board Member Comments

Kim Reykdal

Thanked the EOE principal for being the first to participate in the new system the board is trying out, where they meet with the principal in a work session to get information on the work they are doing.  She has been enjoying watching her daughter play soccer at the middle school. Praised TMS for their fundraising, $20K raised.  She is headed to Spokane for Leg. Assembly to discuss WASDA’s legislative priorities for the coming year.  

Andrea McGhee

She met with the PGS Principal and the counselors to discuss what a day in the life of a school administrator is like.  She met with a couple parent leaders to listen to them about what is happening in their schools.  She attended the Together breakfast.  She thanked Khalia for her time on the board.  She thanked Sean for his efforts.  

Rita Luce

She discussed her previous time at “Leg.” She stopped by PGS.  She also praised the new process meeting with the principal beforehand.  

Melissa Beard (not present)

Khalia Davis (not present, resignation effective 9/25/19).

As always I would encourage you to watch for the video to be posted for those of you to watch as I am sure I missed some items.   We welcome comments, questions and suggestions, just email us as contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Also, if you have comments or questions specific to items discussed, please email the board members.

Your school board representatives:

District 1

Rita Luce:  rita.luce@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 2

Kim Reeykdal:  kim.reykdal@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 3

Andrea McGhee:  andrea.mcghee@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 4

Melissa Beard: melissa.beard@tumwater.k12.wa.us

District 5: Vacant

Budget Workshop Part 3-Some Specific Changes

This is the 3rd and final installment of my budget workshop series.  Part 1 was a short entry where I commended the TSD Board for engaging in productive and informative discussions regarding the budget.  In Part 2, I outlined some “big picture” concepts, some which represent a change of course, when it comes to how TSD is approaching the 2019/20 budget.  In this installment, I delve into a few specifics.  As a reminder, the TSD Board engaged in an depth discussion about the budget as part of a budget workshop on August 8, 2019.  Video of the workshop is on the TSD website and can be found here.   

TSD STAFF DECREASES

Salaries and benefits account for over 80% of the approximately $92 million($92MM) in expenses budgeted by TSD.  According to TSD, teachers account for about $40MM, while classified staff is another $16MM.  Employee benefits are roughly another $22MM.  TSD tried to reduce its expenditures by about $5MM this year.   When 80% of your budget is staff related costs, it is difficult to make any significant reductions without substantial reductions in staff costs. 

Accordingly,  TSD budgeted to Hold/Eliminate several non-teacher positions.  These include: 25 paraprofessionals, 3 maintenance, 1 Fiscal, 1 Human resources, 3 TOSA(teachers on Special Assignment—now being sent  back to the classroom) and 1 Technology position. It is possible these cuts can be adjusted in some regard.  The most impactful cut is likely the elimination of 25 paraprofessional positions.   

Paraprofessionals are a great resource for TSD as they provide classroom assistance to teachers, and in some cases can fulfill student/teacher ratios in overcrowded classrooms. They are not required to be certificated teachers, and are paid at a significantly lower rate than teachers.  Notably, the TEA/TSD contract, like most teacher contracts, actually requires paraprofessional assistance in the classroom in some cases(usually when classes are at impact–overcrowded).  Teachers can generally opt for increased compensation or paraprofessional assistance when classrooms are at impact.  

Frankly, TEA pulled off a pretty big victory on this one as TSD did not eliminate any certificated teaching positions.  The TSD/TEA contract requires TSD to send out notices of potential layoffs  to individual teachers no later than May 15th, and TSD opted not to send out any such notices.  Therefore, it was compelled to renew all teachers contracts.  Notably, the decision to lay off teachers did not have to be made by May 15th.  TSD simply had to notify teachers by May 15th if there was a possibility their individual contracts would not be renewed. 

From a budgeting perspective, this seems a little out of whack as certificated teachers are by far the biggest overall cost in the total budget.  It does not take much financial wherewithal to realize having your largest expense “untouchable” when drastic cuts are needed is not ideal.  To be fair, the decision was made before Superintendent Dotson started.  Highlighting the error was the fact that TSD learned shortly after the May 15th deadline had passed that it was going to get about $2 million less in hold harmless funds than it had already projected receiving, thereby necessitating even deeper cuts.  Here is the link to a blog I did on that decision back in May.  

It seems to me the prudent thing to do would have been to notify a dozen or so teachers that their spots might be eliminated, just to keep its options open.  TSD could have then opted to renew the contracts prior to the school year—once it had a better understanding of the status of the budget.   

I took issue with this move at the time as the decision to not even send notices eliminated the potential cost saving measure.  I am not saying teaching positions should have been eliminated, but there is no excuse for making such a consideration impossible knowing $3MM(which turned out to be $5MM) or so needed to be cut from the budget.  What ended up happening is that TSD scrambled to reduce the budget and was left with having to make all the staff cuts with Administrative and paraprofessional employees.   

In hindsight, this was even more problematic as, even with the cuts, TSD projects it will have a deficit of $1.8MM during 2019/20.

I would hope TSD will be a little more prudent during the upcoming year and at least send out notices if there is $3MM or so that needs to be cut from the budget.  Once again, the notices simply provide an option, and TSD could ultimately opt not to complete the layoffs.

TSD IS USING CAPITAL PROJECTS FUNDS TO PAY SOME SALARIES

Levies and bonds approved by voters can only be used for specified purposes.  Traditionally, TSD bond money has gone to Capital projects(maintenance, construction and improvement of infrastructure), and has not been used for salaries to any significant degree. 

TSD has broken with that tradition and will now pay some staff costs from the bond funds.  The effect is that TSD is going to shift about $750,000 from Capital projects, and instead use the $750,000 to pay salaries for those working on Capital projects.  This is a tactic being used by many school districts under the new funding model.  The theory being that funding the employees working on the capital projects is an allowable use of the bonds voters designated to be devoted to Capital projects.  I am unaware of any provisions within the law, or the bonds, that suggests this tact is not allowed.  

Of course, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  The reaction in this instance is that there will be $750,000 less to spend on Capital projects.  I am unclear on how this will actually impact the Capital projects and may take that up in another blog.  Notably at recent meetings, the Board asked probing questions regarding “what is not going to be built/maintained/improved.”  I also imagine this will be part of the discussion the next time voters are asked to approve a bond.   Maybe voters do not care, maybe they want money spent on salaries, etc.    

DESPITE THE NEGATIVE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES, TSD CONTINUES TO SEEK INCREASED ENROLLMENT 

One concern I continue to have is the expressed sentiment that we need, or desire, more students.  This is illogical to me.  I often hear the Board and administrators make comments like ”we hope enrollment increases.”  TSD should serve the students it has, and budget accordingly.   This sentiment appears to be based on a(1) a lack of recognition that increased enrollment actually increases the deficit, and (2) a desire to save as many jobs as possible, regardless of the economics.   

As I have pointed out, on a cost per student basis, the more students TSD has, the larger the budget deficit becomes.  The state is not giving TSD enough money for basic education. In general terms, TSD receives about $9,000 per student per year from the State under the current funding model, but it costs just over $11,000 to educate each student according to TSD’s budget.  In simple terms, the state is shorting TSD about $2000 per student and TSD has to go find that money somewhere else.  Here is a link to a blog that delves into the topic a little deeper.  

TSD currently fills the gap with a combination of levy money and dipping into the savings account.  Dipping into the savings account is not sustainable, and using levy funds is risky, especially given the fact the levy expires in 2020 and is dependent on voter approval of a new levy.       

Of course, TSD must educate the students who live within the TSD boundaries, and come up with a budget that does so.  However, TSD controls how many out of district students it enrolls.  As has been noted in the past, TSD has a disproportionate number of out district students(see blog here), for which it receives no levy money(those funds stay in the student’s resident district), thus creating an even greater financial burden  The deficit with Out of District students is probably closer to $3500 per student.  Either way, increased enrollment is a financial loss.   The TSD leadership’s desire for increased enrollment is contrary to basic economics. 

I believe the desire for increased enrollment is rooted in a “we need to save jobs at all costs” mentality.  I am not in favor of anyone losing his or her job, but staffing to demand is an economic reality of any responsible operation, including schools districts.  

Staff costs account for well over 80% of the budget.  In order to budget appropriately, fewer students creates a need to budget down, which inevitably will include fewer employees.  TSD reduced staff significantly over the last year, and still projects to run at a $1.8MM deficit. 

TSD has been reluctant to reduce certificated teachers.  TSD needs to appreciate the reality that it must operate within it means.  While there is no desire to have anyone lose a job, TSD should budget to reality, and not to some optimistic hope that enrollment is increased. This is especially true given the fact that we are educating students at a financial loss and more students increases the deficit.  

I think TSD should look to be the best, not the biggest.  I am confused as to the mindset of those who “hope enrollment increases” and/or seek to have a liberal policy when it comes to accepting out of district transfers.  Those individuals appear disinclined to accept the reality that the budget issues are not an enrollment problem, and, at least under the current funding model, increased enrollment actually exacerbates the budget deficiencies.      

STRATEGIC ACCEPTANCE OF INTERDISTRICT TRANSFER STUDENTS

 I had a discussion with Superintendent Dotson a while back wherein he indicated he felt IDT students could help with the budget to the extent TSD strategically accepted, and placed, those students.  This would be a welcome change of course as some schools(especially THS) choose to accept IDT student independent, and well in advance of any planning. 

During prior years, TSD did very little planning with respect to enrollment of IDT students.  My experience is that TSD accepts IDT students well in advance of having any ability to strategically place student with budget considerations in mind. Superintendent Dotson confirmed that he is hopeful, and will attempt to implement a plan, that monitors IDT students in a better fashion.  I have a public records request into TSD and will report back about the IDT student numbers for 2019/20. 

IDT students should be welcomed if, and where, there is capacity, but should not displace resident students.  I am hopeful that, unlike the prior administration, the new administration will take the needs of resident students into account as the primary determination with respect to IDT students.  

CONCLUSION

I only covered a few topics, which I thought might be of the most interest. In my view, the current TSD Board is much more engaged, and transparent, which allows more insight into the decision making process.  I will continue to blog about financial(and other) matters.  As always, we welcome your feedback.