It was a tense and lively school board meeting on Tuesday, with the financial future of the school district dependent on a key decision.
As roughly 60 students, staff and faculty squeezed into the tight confines of the Armstrong Media Center, all eyes were on the St. James School Board.
Tuesday’s School Board meeting was an essential one for the future of the school district.
Nationwide, all school districts perform a balancing act, considering and providing for the needs and benefits of students and balancing a budget to keep their entity financially secure.
When that balancing act falters, districts not only will find themselves in a financial struggle but also will be faced with potentially unpopular decisions.Z
This was the reality that faced the St. James School Board on Tuesday evening.
With a fund balance currently at -$179,272.00 the district knew that they needed to do something to put themselves in a better financial situation.
Last week, the school board voted on a recommendation of additions and reductions which was based on their work session. That recommendation was tabled for more discussion. The proposal that was voted on at the time was the following.
After their scheduled work session was canceled due to inclement weather on Saturday, the board met on Monday night where they eventually came to two possible options for reductions and additions for the school district in 2018-2019.
Both options would unload $212,176 after a series of cuts and additions, but the main difference in the options revolved around cutting personnel.
Option C which would cut one Social Studies teacher while Option D would cut no teachers, yet wouldn't fill the vacancy.
For many of the students, parents and staff in attendance Option C would see them lose a beloved teacher.
That teacher was Alex Hein, who students in the open forum touted as a “caring and hard-working teacher."
The reasoning behind Option C’s rationale for placing Hein on unrequested leave of absence was Hein’s relative lack of seniority as a licensed social studies teacher.
They waited with baited breath, as Board Members laid out their rationale for entertaining both options.
Ultimately, The School Board decided to vote for Option D which includes a deduction of $30,000 for athletics and also states the vacant English teacher position once held by Kaitlyn Sparks would not be filled.
After the motion to pass Option D was approved unanimously, students roared for their teacher and coach.
While Hein wasn’t present at the meeting, he tweeted his appreciation for those who supported him: “I always say #family at the end of my tweets. Today/tonight you all proved that is more than words. I’m so blessed to teach/coach you all! Thank you thank you thank you! -Hein #family #364."
One of the other major deductions that will take place in 2018-2019 fiscal year is the reduction of sections of first grade from four sections to three sections. The class which is expected to have 70 children will have about 23 students per class.
Some of the notable additions to the budget include things like a $2,000 budget for trapshooting which currently receives no funding from the school. Another addition also included $45,000 for new Chromebooks for students to be able to have individual Chromebooks.
Two other notables in the additions were curriculum which will receive an additional $30,000 this year and $10,000 for PBIS which is the school districts new behavioral system.
Last year, the school district also faced financial struggles as their fund balance was almost identical from this year. However, the school board made different additions and reductions to their budget but ultimately only came up with a total of $77,002.00 almost three times less than the amount cut this year. Those cuts last year also did not include the cutting of any full-time teaching positions.
Some other notes that were pointed out during the meeting and for both options is that in 2019 there will be a levy adjustment of $80,521 and for 2020-2022 the levy adjustment available is $306,258.
It was also pointed out that the 2017-2018 budget is balanced and that the enrollment for this year's kindergarten class is almost identical to the one of the senior graduating class this year.