Edmonds School Board Director Keith Smith apologizes for use of profanity

School Board Director Keith Smith

During the Nov. 14 school board meeting, Edmonds Board Director Keith Smith formally apologized for using profanity during the board’s Oct. 24 meeting.

“I just wanted to apologize to our community,” he said. “I used profane language at our previous board meeting, and that is a regrettable choice of language that I used at that particular meeting that clearly shocked the conscience of our community and went against the community’s standards for conduct as such.

“ I’m hoping that moving forward after tonight, I’m sure there will be plenty of comments directed at me this evening, which is completely fine,” he continued. “I welcome those from the community, and I look forward to hearing from you moving forward. I’m hoping that we can get back to the business of the district. There are lots of important things for us to do, and I think it’s best for us to focus on those moving forward.” 

Reactions to Smith’s apology were mixed during public comments. One commenter applauded him for bringing attention to the rage felt by the LGBTQ community. She said she shares that rage when “stochastic terrorism” is spread through lies about the school board, and people start to believe it.

In contrast, three commenters requested that Smith step down, accused the school board of hypocrisy for not holding directors to the same standards as the public, and claimed the board and student advisors also harassed participants. No examples of the alleged harassment were given.

Executive Director of Business & Finance Lydia Sellie explained that Federal Revenues in 2022 were 10% but will decrease as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) is depleted. (Images courtesy of Edmonds School District)Among the business items presented at the Nov. 14 meeting, the school board voted unanimously to certify the amount of excess property taxes to be levied in 2023 and collected in 2024 for the district’s General Fund.

The board also adopted the 2023-24 Budget, including certified General Fund educational programs and operations excess property taxes of $59,479,817 to be levied in 2023 and collected in 2024. 

The board determined the amount of the District’s General Fund school programs and operations excess tax levy previously certified in the 2023-24 budget should be increased to $62,492,149.

Executive Director of Business and Finance Lydia Sellie presented the financial report for the 2033-2023 school year, which was made from two projections – June 2022 and June 2023.

“I’m not particularly happy to report that we basically split the difference,” Sellie said. “The projection in June ‘22 was $17,775, and June ‘23 was $25 million, and it is roughly right in the middle of those two figures.” 

She explained that COVID-19 relief funding measures distorted the district’s typical state apportionment and other federal revenues. This aberration makes it challenging to predict the ending fund balance. The ending fund balance came in at $21,339,587. The unassigned fund balance portion is 2.6% amounting to just under $10 million.

The ending unassigned fund balance or “actual total fund balance” decreased by under $3.7 million from the June 2023 budget estimate. Sellie said the beginning fund balance was higher than estimated for the 2022-23 budget.

A chart shows the expenditures by object, such as salaries, travel expenses and materials. The chart does not include money spent on software subscriptions.

The ending unassigned fund balance or “actual total fund balance” decreased by under $3.7 million from the June 2023 budget estimate. Sellie said the beginning fund balance was higher than estimated for the 22-23 budget.

“We did anticipate that expenditures would exceed revenues by $9 million,” Sellie explained. “The actual number is $7.3, so that is $1.7 favorable.”

Part of the decrease in funding, Sellie explained, is the decrease in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which brought Federal Revenues to 10% in 2022. It is predicted to return to the pre-pandemic 5% once the funds are depleted.

A pie graph shows expenditures by activity. Though facilities operations decreased by 1%, support activities increased due to GASB 96 software subscriptions.

Sellie explained the board would see a higher expenditure because it includes roughly $2.4 million of the future value of software subscriptions the district currently has due according to GASB 96

GASB 96 is a statement by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board that guides best practices for accounting and financial reporting, allowing school districts to use subscription-based software.

“We record the exact same amount of revenues under GASB 96,” Sellie said. “The net impact on the fund balance is zero and does not affect the fund balance, but you will see a higher-than-usual expenditure.”

Cedar Way first-grade teacher Stacy Stuehrenberg with students at the Life Lab.

Also on Nov. 14, Cedar Way Elementary School students gave a presentation to the board about how plants grow. The students were under the direction of Stacy Stuehrenberg, a first-grade teacher at Cedar Way Elementary School.

The students presented what they learned from Cedar Way’s Life Lab, a garden where students can get hands-on experience with natural sciences and build a sense of community with each other.

Stuehrenberg explained that the first Life Lab school garden was created in 1979 at Green Acres Elementary in Santa Cruz, California, with the vision to break down the barriers to natural spaces and experiential learning often caused by systemic racism and socioeconomic disparities.

Stuehrenberg and a group of teachers found they had similar needs in their community after the pandemic, which led to the creation of the Cedar Way Elementary School Life Lab.

Principal Chris Lindblom presented Cedar Way Elementary’s School Improvement Plan (SIP) and its progress in students feeling included and their sense of belonging. The district aims to raise that sense of belonging from 62% to 70%.

Cedar Way Elementary School’s Life Lab helps students connect with the outdoors and each other while learning nature sciences.Lindblom said Cedar Way’s 63% in student’s sense of belonging falls in line with the Edmonds School District’s average of 62%.

A significant hurdle students and teachers are facing, according to Lindblom, is the time spent with online learning during the pandemic. He explained that older children in high school had developed social skills prior to the pandemic, whereas online learning might have been the only experience an elementary school student had.

The next Edmonds School Board meeting is Tuesday, Dec 12, at 6:30 p.m.

You can view the meeting agenda here.

— By Rick Sinnett

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