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Focus on Education

School news like spring weather - variable

This spring’s school district news has been much like our spring weather; moments of beautiful sunshine and days of cold rain. However, the report looks good for the remainder of the year despite the challenges of the economy.

Dominating Board of Trustee work and the thinking of administration and staff has been the reduced funding allocation from the state. For the Lake Pend Oreille School District this amounts to an approximate 8.5 percent reduction in state funding. Through reserves and careful budgeting practices the amount needed to be reduced to meet a balanced budget is approximately $1.1 million dollars. Although there will be some cuts in program and reduced staffing, primarily at Sandpoint High School, our school district is in a much better financial situation than many school districts in Idaho. Most of the cuts will be addressed through retirements and attrition. However, there will be other reductions in curricular expenditures, the Safe and Drug Free Schools program, transportation for kindergarten students, technology and other areas. The most controversial potential reduction, the closure of Northside Elementary School, was avoided when the legislature approved “Protection,” a funding mechanism that protects school districts with declining enrollment such as LPOSD. The state has already announced an almost certain additional holdback for mid-year in 2010-2011 of up to 5 percent. However, this will be addressed by tapping into unreserved fund balances.

At the same time, shining brightly are three noteworthy events that point to the great work students and staff are doing in our school district. These achievements send a clear message that academics are strong in our district and only getting stronger as we work to raise expectations and rigor. Below are just a few of those achievements.

Clark Fork High School was recently recognized by US News and World Report magazine as one of our nation’s best high schools. Only 19 high schools were recognized in Idaho this year and Clark Fork claimed this honor for the third year in a row. Earning the Bronze Award indicates that staff at Clark Fork have done an excellent job of helping students from difficult economic backgrounds attain success on the ISAT. Families, staff, and students should all be proud of this special recognition. Principal Kemink and staff are to be complemented.

Sandpoint High School recently won the State Academic Decathlon Championship, edging Centennial High School from Boise.  Sandpoint’s Tommy Jacobs earned overall honors for the highest point total and the entire team reveled in the victory. They now have the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the country in Omaha, Nebraska later on this spring. Coach Mary Bird did an outstanding job of readying the team and the school for the two-day tournament.

Not to be outdone, Sandpoint Middle School recently earned third place in the Idaho MATHCOUNTS competition in Boise. After winning the northern Idaho competition earlier in the winter over the likes of the CDA Charter Academy and Lakes Magnet School, the team was eager to take on the best. They were the only team from North Idaho to finish in the top three. Eighth grader Chris O’Donnell earned second place, and by doing so received a $1,000 scholarship and a free trip to Disneyworld. It is the highest finish for the team coached by math teacher Patrick Lynch.

As you will note, despite the budget challenges Lake Pend Oreille School District students and teachers are statewide leaders. Despite the reductions we will keep our focus on rigorous teaching, strong student achievement, competitive extra curricular activities, and a focus on continual improvement. You can count on it!

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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