By Florine Gingerich
The Edmonds School District is facing a budget shortfall of $2.1 million due to lower-than-expected student enrollment, the district’s director of business and finance told the Edmonds School Board during its regular meeting last week.
Marla Miller told the board during the Sept. 20 meeting that the district hopes to offset at least $1 million of this amount through spending cuts, with the balance coming from district reserves.
Each school district receives a fixed dollar amount per enrolled full-time student, which is calculated by state law on the fourth day of the school year. The problem arises because the district, as required by the state, projected enrollment for this school year in January and February. The district must then, by law, determine the required number of teachers and contract with those teachers in the spring.
The estimate was based on the number of students at the time, adjusted based on historical projections. The district also brings in a demographer every few years to comment on its methodology. This year’s estimate was farther off than has been the case in the past. It is not clear why, though anecdotal evidence suggests families who lost jobs and homes may have moved out of the district to less-expensive areas.
Had the exact number of students been known in the spring, the district would have adjusted by hiring fewer teachers, but once the contracts have been signed that number cannot be changed. The district can, however, save several hundred thousand dollars by leaving vacant certain positions that have not been filled. The administration is exploring other options as well. Funds that come out of reserves will be repaid from the first available discretionary funds next year.
In better news, Miller and Ed Peters, Capital Projects Director, discussed the new Meadowdale Middle School. The softball field still has to be developed, but the building itself is open and functioning well. Some classrooms are too warm on hot days, so the HVAC system is being reprogrammed. Public address system volumes are uneven and this will also be addressed.
At the second reading of the replacement capital improvement and technology levy, Director Gary Noble asked for clarification of the technology components. It was explained that the levy will pay for replacing technology the district has today such as office staff computers, licenses, projectors and cameras, computer labs and mobile carts. The capital improvement component will fund replacement roofs, as well as traffic improvements to make drop-offs and pick-ups safer. The board unanimously approved the resolution authorizing submission of the levy to voters next Feb. 14.
Mark Madison, director of career and technical education, reported on the STEM goals for the school year. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) provides a project-based approach that can serve as an elective class or — for students falling behind in math — a required math support class. The STEM labs follow the sequence and timing of regular math classes, and reinforce the math class skills with the goal of improving learning for students who are at risk of failing to meet state math requirements.
STEM programs are now operating at all four of the district’s middle schools. Madison showed slides of the College Place lab, which has been created in what was a weight room. By salvaging tables, stools and cabinets from the old Meadowdale Middle School, the district was able to spend more money on equipment.
Next year, the program’s goals include designing an algebra support program at the high schools and, as possible, moving forward to begin implementing a geometry support program. Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood high schools currently have STEM labs for which upgrades will be needed. At Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale, labs must be created. The anticipated cost is $250,000. Madison and his department will be looking for revenue sources, including grants, corporate contributions and other community investment sources.
Bill Henning reported on the Summer Support Program, instituted this past summer to improve math skills. (See the related My Edmonds News story here.) He was joined by Jenny, a student participant, and her mother. The first day Jenny attended, said Henning, she announced that she hated math and had brought other things to do. She stuck with the program, however, and while she ended last year with a D in math, this year she is getting straight A’.
The district housed the program, which was free to students. Volunteers, including students from Edmonds-Woodway and Mountlake Terrace high schools, provided coaching. The curriculum included Khan Academy online tutorials and exercises, small group problem-solving and — for some participants — flash cards. Students in fourth through 12th grades participated, in two-week segments for two hours a day. Some students expressed the hope that the program can continue as an after-school activity, and the district is exploring this idea.
The board also celebrated Peter Schurck, the new assistant principal at Mountlake Terrace High School. Fran McGregor, president of the Washington State Air Force Association, presented Schurck with Seattle Chapter and State Teacher of the Year awards. The award is given to recognize a teacher’s efforts in preparing students to meet aerospace technology challenges of the future.
Board members thanked the newly chosen student advisors to the board, who were sworn in during the meeting and participated with questions and observations. Board members were also appreciative of all the staff work undertaken to get the schools ready to begin classes, and acknowledged the honor paid to Schurck. Superintendent Nick Brossoit seconded the appreciation for the student advisors, and to staff who prepared for school opening. He noted that an upcoming community meeting will focus on the replacement levy and recent improvement in SAT scores.
My Edmonds New school board contributor Florine Gingerich has a son who attended Edmonds public schools, where she volunteered in roles ranging from pouring juice in kindergarten at Madrona K-8 to serving as president of the Edmonds-Woodway Music Boosters. With her husband, Doug Purcell, she practices law at Purcell & Adams, PLLC, a South County firm emphasizing business law, real estate and estate planning. Visit them at purcelladams.com, or contact her at email@example.com.