Staff facing budget challenges
March 26, 2016
FINN ROCK: Some McKenzie Schools staffers may have re-routed their vacation plans in order to spend this week in Portland. “We let the whole staff know where we are in terms of our budget,” superintendent Jim Thomas told the school board last Wednesday. “We’re in the process of notifying people that would be directly impacted by it and chose to do that before Spring Break because Portland had their job fair coming up. It wouldn’t be fair to teachers who may have to be leaving to miss the opportunity to go to a job fair.”
Specifics on who might be affected will remain confidential until they’re discussed at a future executive board session. Thomas said staff cuts are tied to declining enrollment and state support. They would hinge on factors including seniority and certifications. At the time of the meeting, estimates were that next year’s budget will decline close to $370,000, resulting in the loss of about one and a half teaching positions. Since then another adjustment from the state raised that shortage to $459,000.
At the same time, the school district is continuing to explore the merits of creating a new charter school. A new program, “Oregon Rising,” that was developed through a cooperative effort sponsored by the Oregon Education Association, the Confederation of School Administrators and the Oregon School Boards Association, could aid part of that effort. Oregon Rising is a statewide plan that provides funding for districts to gauge how their communities rate the education experience they provide – ranging from opportunities for apprenticeships to how the current curriculum may fall short. Thomas said the process was like a mirror for the approach McKenzie was planning to use in evaluating a charter school.
After meeting three times, board member Patrick Starnes said the facilities committee had identified four things as priorities. Two include regular maintenance and a possible bond measure to address problems. The other two were earthquake preparedness and how the existing facilities might mesh with the operations of a charter school.
One large question that had been identified, Starnes said was, “Since we’re not 500 students anymore do we need to use all the space?” One possibility, he felt, might be the elimination - rather than repair - of the modular structures added to the site decades ago as classrooms but now used for storage.
If a bond is passed, he noted, it would be matched dollar for dollar by the state and could be used for things like leaking roof repairs. Oregon dollars are available to address things like making sure exits are safe but could also address the larger danger that the possible collapse of covered walkways presents.
Image above: With a declining student body, a committee is looking at buildings on the McKenzie Schools campus to designate candidates for repair or removal - like modules that were installed when overcrowding was a problem.
McKenzie River Reflections