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Focus on Education

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End of the year round-up

Student Academic Performance
Last year we were pleased to report that our ISAT scores were the highest the district has recorded. I am pleased to relay this year’s preliminary scores appear to be stronger.

Plant and Facility Levy


Our 14.1 million dollar Plant and Facility Levy was the first successful measure of this type in over 20 years. Its passage in Spring of 2008 generated a great deal of work throughout our district during the past two years. I am very pleased to report that all projects have been completed on time and under budget. In fact, because of the favorable bid environment and construction costs, we will have in reserve 1.2 to 1.4 million dollars to address upcoming facility issues. I can say with clear conscience that our facilities are in the best condition they have been in the four years I have served the district. We will not be forced to take money from our general instructional budget to address facility needs for the immediate future. This is extremely important as we move forward to improve our instructional programs. As noted in last year’s report, we explored the possibility of adding a gymnasium project to Kootenai. I am pleased to report this did occur because of the favorable bid environment, as well as a new library and technology room. Finally, voters will be pleased to note their last payment of taxes to support the many projects will be this December. In short, every item will be paid for without long term indebtedness.


The above noted surplus will serve the district well on future health and safety issues. Sometime in the next five years the district and community should explore next steps for facility upgrades, particularly at Sandpoint Middle School.


Economic Downturn


The district and Board of Trustees anticipated the economic downturn and began working to address the potential effects over 18 months ago. As a result, our school district is in an enviable position compared to many school districts in Idaho, and in particular, our neighboring districts. We have not declared a financial emergency as have many districts. We have not been forced to reduce staff salaries.  We have made some cuts to benefits for our staff to gain some savings on employee costs, but by and large our employees have remained whole through this economic downturn. We have a fund balance of 3.7 million dollars; of which 2.7 is undesignated. This is much higher than most school districts in the state. In addition, the district has a designated fund balance of $1,000,000. This is set aside to address any unplanned for emergencies. Again, this is not the norm for many surrounding school districts. Our Board has been consistent in their determination to set aside dollars yearly in this account even in these difficult budget times.


We did reduce next year’s budget by 1.1 million dollars for fiscal year 2010-2011. Staffing reductions will occur at Clark Fork High School, Sandpoint High School and Sandpoint Middle School where enrollment is down. Other reductions have occurred in multiple programs but I am pleased to report these were kept as far away from the classroom as possible.


Supplemental Levy


Our current supplemental levy of 10.9 million dollars expires in June of 2011. As a result, we have begun our work to craft a levy to be placed before voters in March of 2011. This represents a considerable challenge given the economic climate. It will be very important that our voters understand this is only a replacement levy. We are hopeful they will understand their school tax burden will drop considerably with the payoff of the Plant Facility levy in January. The Supplemental levy represents over 27 percent of our budget and is all locally funded. With state revenues declining, it is our community’s only opportunity to drive local funding directly into our schools.

 


Staff Relationships
Each year we negotiate with our LPOEA regarding teacher contracts: benefits, rights, and expectations. I am pleased that we have successfully completed negotiations for this year and the Board and Union have both signed off on the agreement. As noted, we were not forced to reduce staff salaries and I believe this is an important point to note for both morale and instructional reasons.  Brian Smith, President of LPOEA, is an outstanding leader and works closely with us to problem solve. A kudo is also due to Board of Trustee, Mindy Cameron, who facilitates the interest based bargaining process. I am particularly proud of the work we have done in this area over the past four years, and I am thankful to Mark Berryhill and the Board for establishing this collegial process.


Partnerships


Our district continues to thrive with the partnerships that have been created. The Panhandle Alliance for Education, Community Assistance League, Angels Over Sandpoint, Rotary, Ambrosiani Foundation, University of Idaho, Coldwater Creek, Litehouse, the Festival at Sandpoint and others have all played a significant role in the success of our school district and students. Programs of which I am particularly proud include the Ready! 4 Kindergarten initiative, Secondary Transition counselor at Sandpoint High School, PAFE Innovative Teacher Grants, Kaleidoscope Art, POAC Performing Arts Series, Festival at Sandpoint Music Outreach, and the ISLES grant with the University of Idaho for improved science instruction. Our relationship with local legislatures is strong. We meet with them and directly email regarding issues that affect our district. This past year they were instrumental in securing ADA Protection for our district despite the bleak state budget. This represents over $800,000 dollars to our district and effectively made the closure.
Challenges Ahead


Despite the positive news there are still challenges ahead. Briefly, they are as follows:


Academic—Our goal is continuous improvement. We have made improvements each year in each academic area that is tested. We cannot be content with the status quo on the ISAT. I believe our reading scores will improve this year, and frankly, I am a bit surprised because they are currently so high. I believe math and language usage results will also climb. We will continue our push to raise standards and expectations because we want our students to be competitive in whatever arena they choose.


Economic—We anticipated the drop in revenue for 2010-2011 and have already started planning for 2011-2012. We are in a position that we can absorb a 5 percent legislative holdback should it occur. However, as noted above this also means that passing our supplemental levy is imperative. Working in the state of Idaho is a particular challenge around funding.


Competition—The competition for students continues as the Sandpoint Charter School and virtual schools continue to grow. However, I believe we can be more aggressive in our marketing. This part of our work has improved this year. However, I also will be asking the Board of Trustees to reconsider the transportation component of our support. We are one of only two public school districts transporting students to a charter in our state. I believe this needs to change.


Succession—Leadership changes continue in our district. Judy Hull (Director of Title 1), Sid Rayfield (Director of Facilities) and Betsy Walker (Elementary Principal) will all retire. They are terrific employees and human beings. We continue to look at succession planning at all levels of our organization.

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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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Lake Pend Oreille School District, levy, AYP

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