Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ashland School District No. 5, Jackson County, Oregon - The Board of Directors met in a work session April 8, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. at the Ashland High School Library.  Present were:

 

Mat Marr                     )           Chair

Ruth Alexander          )

Keith Massie               )

Heidi Parker               )           Board Members

Amy Patton                 )

 

Juli Di Chiro, Superintendent

Jill Turner, Business Manager

Traci Adams, District Accountant

Jeanne Peterson, Administrative Assistant

Media Representatives

District Administrators

Community Members

 

I.          Call to Order

 

The meeting was called to order at 7:02 p.m. by Chair Marr.

 

II.        Roll Check

 

A roll of the board was taken and all members were present.

 

III.       Overview of Current Financial Projections

 

Jill Turner reviewed the current financial projections and the different scenarios of funding.  The proposed budget is being developed at a $5.8 billion funding level.  I working towards that target, the district has been working to reduce the current budget by $4.2 million.  Juli Di Chiro recently heard at a statewide superintendentís meeting in Salem, that the Governorís office recommends that schools develop their budgets at the $5.4 billion funding level.

 

Jill Turner reported that if we have to go to the $5.4 billion funding level, the district will need to make additional cuts in the amount of $840,000.  That amounts to approximately 11 school days or 11 teachers.

 

IV.       Overview of Phase 2 Reductions

 

            Juli Di Chiro reviewed the phase 2 reductions explaining that 5th grade strings was part of the reductions in phase 1 and we have found a revenue neutral way to continue to offer strings.  Fifth grade students can choose to take a general music class or they can choose to take strings.  The district would return to a half-time kindergarten program.  If the district does not elect to contract out the food service program, a reduction of hours will occur in the food service staff.

 

Juli Di Chiro explained the core values of the phase 1 reductions as follows: (1) look at reductions outside of the classroom; (2) can a program be saved without it being eliminated; (3) Equity across the levels; (4) how does the reduction impact K-12 education.

 

Keith Massie expressed concern about the reductions in the athletic department relative to teams and club sports.  Director Massie moved that the Ashland School District make the following budget adjustments:  (1) Reduce Ashland Middle School athletics by $60,000; (2) reduce football assistant coach salaries by $25,000; (3) Eliminate extra assistant coaches in Boys Soccer, Volleyball, Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Baseball, Softball and Track; (3) Restore $180 per participant for club sports; (5) Restore Swim team; (6) Restore Golf team; (7) Restore .50 Athletic Department Secretary to provide support for athletics and club sports; (8) Assure that the Athletic Department staff use technology to reduce workloads; (9) Restore Auto Mechanics to .33.  Director Alexander seconded the motion.  Juli Di Chiro explained that this is the first time staff has had the opportunity to see this proposal, and asked that the Board allow the administration to analyze the data and ensure accuracy of the savings/expenditures. Director Patton asked for input from the athletic department on this proposal.

 

The following public input was received on the motion.

 

Is there an organized method to know what positions can be volunteered for and is there a volunteer coordinator.

I am concerned that we are talking about sporting issues and clubs when we should be concerned about a 4-day school week and academics.  We need a strong foundation in academics.  How are we going to prepare our students for the future.  Are we able to compete on a global scale.  There are different ways to address the sports issues; academics is the primary function of schools.

I support the motion.  It does not cut academics in order to support athletics.  One of the campaign promises to the Youth Athletics & Activity Levy was that we would make cuts proportionately. 

Sports helps my child focus on education.  The water polo and swim team have the highest GPAs of the sports teams.

If you are cutting more than 50% of the AMS athletic budget, where is that going to come from.  Which would affect more children Ė bringing more programs back to the high school or cutting from the middle school.  Sports at the middle school are extremely important.

The administration should analyze the proposal.  This is a huge reduction to the sports program.  The middle school has a no cut policy.  The philosophy is to provide programs to every student.  This cut would put an end to that philosophy.

I support sports for its benefit, but I would like to know how much the overall sports program costs.  I am concerned about the impact on other aspects of academics, particularly the Arts, which are core academics.  The topic of sports related to academic subjects needs to be addressed.

I support the effort not to eliminate programs.  Many of the things that are cut are life-long activities.  I have to chop those off at the high school level.

 

Director Massie withdrew his motion and asked that staff incorporate the proposals into the Phase 2 reductions.

 

A teacher expressed concern that the cuts are not equitable across the levels, and proposed that the administrative staff cuts be equal to the certified staff cuts.  The percentage of the administrative reductions needs to be equal to the percentage of the certified reductions.  In addition, 22 of the classified staff lost health insurance.  It is hard to live without health insurance.

 

V.        Review of 4-Day School Week Proposal

 

Director Patton gave a PowerPoint presentation on an alternative 4-day school week proposal.  She felt it would allow for a stronger academic program that what exists now.  The program would assume a reinstatement of the COLAs for staff, would eliminate Phase 2 cuts, and would be a temporary two-year pilot program.

 

Director Parker expressed concern that a 4-day school week would impact the students that need the full school week the most.

 

Juli Di Chiro asked the Board to remember that this is not the appropriate forum to discuss collective bargaining issues.  A 4-day school week involves collective bargaining because employees would be asked to work for less pay.  She expressed concern about assuming savings through reductions when we donít know what our revenues or reductions are going to be.  Ms. Di Chiro will be holding a budget summit with all of the employee groups to develop plans if the district has to go beyond the $5.8 million funding level.  She urged the Board not to make a decision until the budget summit is held with the employee groups.

 

Director Alexander saw a benefit in the 4-day school week and has heard from teachers on both sides of the issue.

 

Director Patton said the Board received information from high school teachers about their thoughts on the original 4-day week proposal.  She felt the alternative proposal addressed most of their concerns.

 

Chair Marr felt the proposal needs to start with staff to determine if this educational model has promise.  If it does, we need time to work it out.  If there is interest in this proposal from employees, he proposed that we work on it next year.  It is difficult to support this type of major change so late in the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI.       Public Input

 

            Public comment was received as follows.

 

I believe in the Ashland advantage.  My son is an AHS student with a 3.85 GPA, a boy scout, speech novice, fences competitively, and is an active member of a church youth group.  He is able to do things right because of his school environment.  I am deeply concerned about the 4 day week.  There is nothing more permanent than a temporary program.  I believe the 4 day week will eliminate the Ashland Advantage because of the increased teaching pressure and the schedule.  If the Ashland Advantage is lost, my son will go to his resident school or he will be home schooled.

Many teachers are not convinced the 4-day week is the solution.  This topic demands to be bargained.  Teachers carry the burden of the cuts because of salary reductions.  The daily high school schedules does not promote a quality learning environment.  Class sizes of 30 students would have a daily student load of 180 instead of 90.  There is not enough prep time to cover that load.  When would IEPs be scheduled.  The 4-day schedule places a burden on child care users.  Will reducing the salary schedule make it more difficult to attract teachers.  Will this impact our successful academic and athletic programs.  Will this impact new student enrollments.  Consider alternatives.  Maintain salary schedule.  Cut inservice days.  Cut parent conference days at middle and high school level.  Reduce the budget to safe or reinstate staff.  Maintain the salary structure, and provide a good learning environment.  Staff wants to assist in changes.

I spent time at my cousinís high school in New York and they do not have a block schedule.  It was hard to find connections with teachers.  There is a loss of communication between students and faculty. 

If a 4-day schedule is more conducive to the needs of students, I am happy to support it.

An opportunity of the 4-day week is that teachers could be entrepreneurial and fine creative ways to work on the fifth day, raise some money.  I appreciate the creativity although I am not sure it is the right thing to do.

I went to a 4-day week school.  Weekends were fabulous.  The school week was absolutely awful and tiring.  If Ashland did this, we would lose the standard of excellence we have because you wonít have enough energy.

I have been to a 4-day week and it is exhausting regardless of how many classes you have.  You cannot absorb your learning before you get to the next class.  After school activities were hard.  Teachers did not have time and did not want to talk with students.

Research has shown that kids in high school and beyond need over 9 hours of sleep each night to do well in their learning.  I am concerned about the exhaustion caused by a 4-day week.

A 4-day week could possibly work out, but we are going into this pretty quickly.  We should move slowly and work collaboratively together.  Do so thoughtfully and do the research.

I moved to Ashland for the Ashland Advantage.  I have a low income and I am a single parent.  I worry about gentrification.  Many of the low income cannot do the 4-day week.  Something creative would need to happen to help with child care.

I am concerned that we are losing the Ashland Advantage no matter which we look at this.  We have declining enrollment.  We want to maintain our current quality, keep our students, and attract more students.  I see no solutions in the Phase 2 reductions.  I am concerned that we have cut beyond the bone and our kids are going to suffer no matter what we do.

We need to entertain big ideas.  I am interested in the 4 day week as an entry point of thinking differently about education.  I advocate moving slowly and thinking outside the box.  Articulate the Ashland Advantage and start from there.

I am against the 4 day week because of the problems of the community and the low income family.  If families cannot afford to live here, they will leave.  I wonít want to worry about my child on the 5th day.  Often, non-institutional activities are well intended but often fall apart and that often happens when you have a volunteer force.  You can think outside the box, but you also have to be realistic about what people will do and follow through on.

I am currently the manager of a small company.  We had a small budget and we had to make choices.  We ended up having everybody reduced 1 hour a day which ended up being a 16% pay cut.  We kept almost everything we had.

I would encourage you to make sure that you maintain the work that has already been done on the redesign process.  Rather than table those things, try to meld them together with new proposals.

Everyone makes mistakes and that is okay.  We have made a huge mistake in cutting our educational assistants.  We cut one of the most cost-effective elements of the schools.

I think the federal and state governments forget that we are in times that we have not seen in generations.  We need to tell them we cannot continue to teach children and meet the demands of recordkeeping.  We need to do the minimum things required to get our children to graduation.  We need to revisit the reductions of the educational assistants.  I think also that we would not outsource our food service staff.

We need to look at the seven objectives of the 21st century skills Ė appreciation of the arts, stewards of the natural world, etc.  It is important for us to maintain what type of students we want.  Continue to collaborate with the community and remember that the arts are one thing that connects us together as humans.

I have a son who loves academics and a son who hates academics.  When you reduce some of the electives, some kids will begin to hate school and there will be nothing left to interest them.

Reducing the educational assistants was less than 1% of the entire budget and the impact was huge.  Put them back and look at other areas to reduce.

If you cut too many of your Arts Programs, you will lose some of the transfer students.

I would like the meetings to be televised so people can know what is going on.  Put more things on the website.  Coordinate the school mailings so families with 3 kids only get one letter.  Save money.

Does the district have an arts education master plan?  I am concerned about the phase 1 cuts that have been done in the arts.  I will email a letter to you about some of the studies that have shown the benefits of arts in the schools.  The district needs to firmly identify where the district is headed K-12. 

 

Juli Di Chiro explained the budget process and announced the first public budget meeting scheduled for May 6 at 7:00 pm in the District Board Room.

 

 

VII.     Adjournment

 

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 9:51 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by Jeanne Peterson, Administrative Assistant.

 

 



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