The Astoria School Board finalized the district’s budget for the next year, Wednesday, including a couple fewer teachers and an altered band program.
“I’ve been at this five years now, and every year it gets more difficult,” said Superintendent Craig Hoppes about continually having to slash budgets.
The 2012-13 general fund for Astoria – what the district operates on – totals $14,687,044, with more than $8.6 million in the general fund for instruction, another $5.4 million for support services and $397,000 as a reserve.
This year’s general fund is the same as last year, which Hoppes said helped in the budgeting process.
Possibly the most visible result of the budget is the movement of the Astoria High School Marching Band class from a credit program to an extracurricular program, similar to sports. It cut music instructor Scott Cuthbert’s time from one full-time equivalent position to .84 FTE.
Band members, boosters and parents made their presence known throughout the budgeting process, lamenting what they see as a possible death knell to “The Little Band that Can.”
“It’s really important,” said graduating senior Chantelle Krause, who is on deck for a possible full-ride scholarship to Portland State University for her skills with the French horn. “Any more cuts to it, and it is in serious danger of going away.”
Trenna Anderson said her daughter has been offered a $20,000 scholarship to Pacific University.
“It keeps them going,” she said of the band. “He (Cuthbert) has been a life saver.”
Board members reiterated their previous comments that they don’t think the change means band is going away.
“We cut all the librarians before we cut” band, said board member Laurie Choate, adding that she hopes volunteer efforts keep the marching band going strong.
Hoppes has met with parents and Astoria Band Boosters members concerning the health of the program and options for funding, but no ideas have become public.
“The cut is pretty steep to music ... but the district, the budget committee and the board are tasked with looking at the bigger picture,” said Hoppes, adding that the district is facing fewer math sections at the high school, increasing class sizes and other issues.
The district is laying off two elementary school teachers, saving more than $100,000. The district will also lose an assistant bus mechanic.
At Astoria High School, the district will not fill the position being left vacant by math instructor Chad Madsen’s ascension to vice principal next year. Though not laying off any faculty, the district will reduce the equivalent of one full-time instructor by moving other teachers’ assignments around.
“You do it a little bit different each year,” said Hoppes about the budgeting process The only way I can compare them (the yearly budget sessions), is none of them are any fun.”
The board also approved a tax on all district-area taxpayers of $4.94 per $1,000 of assessed value on real estate. That will help pay for more than $1.9 million in general obligation bonds. Hoppes said the district pays its general obligation bonds through a combination of property tax revenue and the state school fund.
The overall district budget is $22,875,813, including the general fund, federal money, debt service and capital projects funding.
Budget committee member Lori Davis commented that people need to focus more attention on the state and federal government, which under financial duress has not made education a high priority. She added that more than 75 percent of the 2.8 million people eligible to vote, are registered, and they need to make their voices heard for education.
Board members ended the meeting by thanking AHS Principal Larry Lockett for his service. Lockett will be replaced by Lynn Jackson, currently the vice principal, starting next year. Madsen, a math instructor, will become the vice principal.
In an attempt to recapture home school and other students – along with the estimated $5,800 in funding per student – the district has been developing the Oregon Choice Academy, an online schooling option. It uses online education provider Calvert for its kindergarten through eighth-grade classes, and the Northwest Education Service District’s Oregon Virtual Education (ORVED) program for the high school portion.
“Going into this summer, we have eight to 10 kids signed up for this,” said Hoppes, adding that he’s hoping for about 30. He’s been contacting identified children registered with the NWESD as home school students.
Astoria recently got the Seaside School District to send out flyers for the program. Seaside is not paid on a per student basis because of property and timber taxes funding its schools, said Hoppes, so the district is willing to let Astoria advertise to its home school students. He has identified 39 home-schooled children in the Seaside area.
In other news:
• AHS Vice Principal Lynn Jackson presented the new Certified Evaluation Report, brought on as a result of Senate Bill 290 that made the State Board of Education Adopt Core Teaching Standards. Jackson said the updated model is the biggest change in teacher evaluations in 20 to 30 years. It will involve formal, announced observations of a teacher’s performance, along with a series of unannounced, 10- to 20-minute miniobservations followed by a discussion with the teacher within the day.
• The school board set its meeting calendar for next year, starting Aug. 8. The board still has one meeting and a board retreat at 6 p.m. July 11.