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Ann Brown, a parent of a Kingsely School kindergartner, told School Board members at their April 27 meeting that many Kingsley parents were concerned about eliminating an assistant superintendent position at the school, as part of the budget cuts announced last month. When she asked Kingsley parents in the audience to rise if they agreed with her, about 30 people rose.
Ms. Brown said the assistant principal played a pivotal role in improving the culture of the school and the education of students at the school. She said 74 parents at the school completed a survey in the last few days, and 94% expressed concern about eliminating the position. In addition, she said, the survey data showed, “Kingsley parents, by and large, do not believe that they had opportunities for input in this important decision that impacts our school and they wish for greater transparency and communication about the budget cuts and other issues facing our school.”
On April 2, the District announced that the School Board had approved eliminating 29 full-time-equivalent positions, including one assistant principal, to reduce costs by $1.2 million.
Superintendent Paul Goren said, “I take very seriously the concerns and the critiques about clear communication and about the impacts at the school level. .,. I take full responsibility. As we move forward, we take your advice and counsel with full sincerity.”
Dr. Goren referred to projected operating deficits facing District 65 which, before the cuts, increased from $407,843 for the 2015-16 school year to $5.9 million in 2016-17. He also referred to pending legislation that, if enacted, would cut state aid to District 65 by $6.6 million per year, and increase the operating deficits.
“The clarion call for me as the chief administrator,” said Dr. Goren, “has been to pay attention to those resources and to make the best and most prudent changes, with full respect to the concerns that you are raising.”
He summarized the guiding principles that he and other administrators used in deciding on the cuts. They include not increasing class sizes; not eliminating any classroom teaching positions; not reducing or changing the arts or specials; and not changing the athletic or after-school programs.
“These are tough economic times, and there’s such uncertainty,” said Dr. Goren. “By no means are we, or I, trying to pinpoint one school over another school. … The initial foray into budget reductions is an attempt to move forward on balancing the budget for next year and being prepared as the Governor and State may make changes.”
Board member Suni Kartha urged Board members to consider an operating and capital referendum. “I would like to encourage us to really and substantively think about what a referendum would look like, what amounts we’re talking about, what the impact would be on families in our community, when we need to go for that, and how we’re going to engage the community,” she said.
Richard Rykhus, a Board member and chair of the Finance Committee, said the committee has been “very proactive” and has had many conversations about both capital and operating needs. “There has been a lot of leg work done,” he said, adding that last fall the committee decided to defer seeking a referendum until the strategic plan was adopted so that the Board could make sure that any request for funding in a referendum was aligned with the strategic plan.
Now that the strategic plan has been adopted, Mr. Rykhus said, “We will absolutely be talking about that [the referenda] – I imagine most months from here on out to decide if that’s what we’re going to do.”