As the school board and administration continue to grapple with the implications of declining enrollment and no new monies from the state or federal level, we continue to refine the needed cuts to ensure fiscal soundness of the district. At the last meeting of the school board several cuts were finalized and a new high school schedule was approved. Before I explain I do want to thank all the school staff and teachers that have provided guidance and support during these tough fiscal times. I also want to thank the administrative team and school board on their work to actually make the hard decisions. Lastly, to all the parents and community members that have stopped us or attended board meetings to listen, share, and be part of the process.
At this time the projected expenditure budget is showing a reduction of about $353,000 or -7.6%. This is very tentative as many items have yet to be finalized for next year including contract costs for purchased services, salaries for all employees, summer work projects, and other items. However, at this time the board has taken action on the following reductions which are reflected in this budget:
In addition to these major items a few areas of supplies or fees have been reduced but they are not directly impacting a full program or service as you see in the list above. I do believe this is a healthy reduction and I have been sharing my view that I do believe this is sufficient for the district, but the final decision is the school boards.
Starting this year many hoped for another good year. A year of successes, some snow days, great learning, and an occasional setback to challenge us. Never, never in my mind would I have predicted the path we have ventured down this year. The year started more depressing and difficult than most as we began a long journey of grappling with a declining enrollment and zero state funding. Reducing budgets, cutting positions, and the like are never fun and it kind of brings everyone down. But, then….
Then we begin a string of WOW moments:
Times do get tough and it takes people with a Champions heart to persevere. I know I am surrounded by Champions here every day. The adults that work with our kids are amazing and they do it during good times and bad with a smile on their face. But, this year they are surrounded by another set of CHAMPIONS our kids. Now, athletic accomplishment are not the only thing that matters. But, I will tell you it is amazing how championships like these can put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and a tear in your eye.
I am so proud of our students and fans. Congratulations on all your accomplishments. Ellendale relish in the glory of the Champions from 1967 on Friday night of the Class B Tournament this coming week. Delight in the Parade of Champions on Saturday night as our football team takes center stage. Rejoice and raise your hands and voices to cheer on our basketball team! Wow, life is good! #50YrsandNow
Do you support rural America? Would the idea that you promote policies and programs that support rural America be a cornerstone of your campaign? I am going to make the assumption that your answer is yes, since we do live in a highly rural state. So what have you done to strengthen our rural areas? Have you promoted investments and policies to:
98% of parents in our state report they are pleased with their local school their children attend. School pride in both academics and athletics fill rural community centers each and every week. I would presume many in rural communities would have a positive response toward their school and the pride it brings to their community. Schools can be the unifying force in many communities. But, are YOU really trying to support rural communities and keep their schools alive? Lets take a second to look.
My party, the Republic Party promotes many education reforms. You be the judge as to how these will affect your small rural schools.
So which of these are supporting your community and its school?
I could go on… reducing transportation funding (not helping), reducing health care services (not helping), and ignoring growing mental health needs (not helping). My question again to my party is… Are you really supporting rural communities and their schools?
The Ellendale School Board finalized a few of the budget reduction measures it will take next year to address a shortfall in funding. The school district has been working on addressing the expected $250,000 shortfall since September. This reduction in funding is due in large part to declining enrollment within the district but is also compounded by limited to reduced state funding projected next year. Starting in September the Board has been working on a list of possible cuts while weighing the benefits and consequences of each cut. Here is the list of cuts discussed and the status of each at this time.
|Proposed Cut||Savings||Action By Board|
|Eliminate Health Careers Course||$20,482.00||Board approved elimination at Feb meeting.|
|Postpone Replacement of Desks & Furniture||$16,000.00||Board approved removing this from expenditure budget at Jan meeting|
|Do not replace any retirees||$49,449.00||The board approved no filling any vacancies, at the time, during Jan meeting.|
|Elementary – Reducing Instructional Faculty||61,550 – 98,200||No action at this time.|
|Reconfigure to K-8 9-12 Building – Reducing Instructional Faculty in HS||$53,474.00||The Board has directed the administration to present a revised schedule and staff reduction recommendation at the March meeting.|
|Postpone Bus Purchase||$87,000.00||The Board removed this from the expenditure budget at the Jan meeting.|
|Technology Support Reduced||Undetermined at this time||No action at this time.|
|Reduce Extended Contract or Eliminate.||$16,875.00||This has been withdrawn as an option.|
|Eliminate SRCTC Counselor & Hire Locally||$1,700.00||Board has determined to continue partnership with SRCTC on this program.|
|Eliminate SRCTC Voc Ed Courses||$54,500.00||The Board has reviewed and determined to continue this program at this time.|
|Oakes VocEd Bus||$22,579.00||*same as previous|
|Eliminate 1 bus route and consider family trans.||$22,702.00||Mr. F presented first information about family transportation at the Feb meeting. The Board has approved 1st reading of a policy allowing the practice. Still under consideration.|
|Reduce Athletic Coaching Staff||Undetermined||The Board has directed the administration to present to the Personnel and Finance Cmty projections if Golf and Cross County were eliminated. No official Board action at this time.|
|eBook Reduction||$3,500.00||This was reviewed by the Board and a new reduced contract has already been signed for 2017-18|
|No longer use Viewpoint and transition to SLDS||$3,150.00||This program is being evaluated by the administration at this time.|
Other items have been discussed but not included on the formal list as they were rejected right away. However, it should be noted that there are reductions in areas still being considered that are not on this list. As the expenditure budget for the upcoming year becomes more clear it will surely solidify the actions already taken or cause more considerations to be made.
I was impressed this week to see an education related article, not deriving from Ellendale School, on the front page of the Dickey County Leader. The article entitled “North Dakota Legislature Addresses Education” was penned by Mike Jacobs from the ND Newspaper Association and reports on several interviews with key legislative and state leaders on education issue at the legislative assembly. Thank you Leader for running this article.
After reading the article I thought it appropriate to share some of my thoughts also on these topics as I have been meeting and working with several of these legislative leaders and others to protect funding cuts from affecting small rural schools. I do believe that without exception legislators believe education is one of their top priorities. The education budget is a substantial portion of the state budget and definitely draws attention in the hallways of the Capitol. I become concerned when the article talks about desires “to hold harmless” education and I compare that with budgets and bills that seem to not live up to that promise.
Here is a table of the areas that have been proposed to be cut (showing dollars cut) at some point thus far this session. I realize bills can change and in some aspects they already have.
|Item||Appropriations Bill||Gov Dalrymple’s Bill|
|ELL Refugee Resettlement Impact Grants||$ 1,000,000||$ 1,000,000|
|Career & Technical Education||$ 1,302,972||$ 2,477,406|
|Rapid Enrollment Grants||$ 12,504,530||$ 12,504,530|
|Early Childhood Education||$ 3,000,000||$ 3,000,000|
|$ 17,807,502||$ 24,681,936|
As you can see the initial education funding bills were not holding education harmless. For Ellendale the significant impact would have been in the area of transportation where the reduction would have ended up in a 10-12% reduction in state funding. However, the significant reduction in CTE also affects our school as we receive partial reimbursements for some of our CTE programs we provide in Ellendale and receive at the SRCTC. Any reduction in funding for CTE is a reduction in reimbursement for us. Several education leaders and I met with Sen. Schaible last week and some of these cuts have already been reinstated, but we need to keep watching to ensure education is made 100% whole.
Some legislators and others have argued that almost all other areas of the state budget are taking 5-10% cuts, why not education. My quick response is because of the will of the voters. Voters approved, last fall, the opening up of the Foundation Aid Stabilization fund which presently has approximately 600 millions dollars in it. It would seem that to make education whole and still use some special funds to reduce the states obligation to the foundation payment itself are within it’s capacity. I hope we all watch closely what the legislature does to ensure they fulfill the will of the people.
Now time to dash back to Bismarck!
During the Christmas season we all know about the role of Santa Clause. He is the man bringing the presents to all the good little girls and boys. Behind him are some exceptional characters, the elves. Without the elves Santa would not be able to have all the gifts to put in those stockings around the world. At school, the work of education is obviously Santa, it dominates the building. But, we also have elves and I want to give them some credit.
Each and every day, behind the scenes, our four elves (Dennis, Steve, Dan & Jewel) keep Ellendale School comfortable, clean, and functioning properly. Some have asked during our budget cutting discussions, why not cut out one custodian. I believe all areas are open for discussion. However, I don’t know if everyone appreciates what these four people do.
The list could keep going on and on but I think you get the picture. These elves are MAGIC! However, don’t forget the little miracles they provide during concerts, sporting events, or community events. Concerts require them to be experts in engineering and sound system setup. Sporting events require sound and music systems, clean seats, trash collection, and team logistics all under the scrutiny of thousands of eyes. Finally, many do not realize how many community events our elves help provide. These events range from dance, taekwondo, DRN banquets, post-prom parties, meetings, and more.
The next time you have the opportunity to visit another school look around. Look at the floors, the sinks, gym floors, look up and down. When I do this, I leave thankful for the efforts of these four exceptional people. It also reaffirms my view there is no way we can provide the service to this community facility, that it deserves, without them.
Merry Christmas & a huge THANK YOU to our elves!
Thank you – Jewel, Dennis, Dan & Steve
The Ellendale School Board on Tuesday took action on a proposal to add women’s fast pitch softball. The Board had been approached about adding the sport in late summer, so it creating an ad-hoc committee to research the program. During, the past few months the committee & Mr. Matt Herman A.D. looked at the requirements of the program, start up costs, gathered interest of students, and interest in coops with other schools. During this same time the Board has been working on budget cutting options due to declining enrollment, as shared in a previous post. It was these budget cutting needs that eventually drove the committee to decide on Tuesday to not approve fast-pitch for the upcoming year. The ad-hoc committee, chaired by Mrs. Kinzler, indicated the committee did not feel they could responsibly add a program while having to cut other programs in the district. They did indicated that it could be an option in the future but it would not be recommended at this time.
With the kick off of the session this past Wednesday we saw the release of the Governor’s budget for the next two years. His 2017-2019 Executive State Budget can be found on the OMB web site at https://www.nd.gov/omb The news has been bleak for state agencies for over the past year and this budget continues to paint a similar picture. Little to no new funding will be coming to Ellendale Public School to reduce the financial pressures that I have shared previously. Here are some specifics:
When you look at the gains ($39,654) and then subtract the reductions ($33,798 + $5,989 = $39,787) that is about as a close to a net zero wash as you can get. The Governor’s Executive Budget request could be changed by the Legislature during the session, however I am not holding my breath. If I had to bet I would expect more cuts being made to this budget by the assembly. We are not going to see many positive changes in my view.
The nearly $300,000 Ellendale needs to cut in our own budget, due to declining enrollment this yea,r is not going to get a reprieve from Bismarck. Getting our budget to balance will take continued tough decisions, many of them cutting programs and resources we have become accustom to having. There will be no easy decisions and as I have said before the Board and Administration are considering all options – GREAT and small!
The recent victory for President-Elect Donald Trump was in large part due to the support from rural America. Many news organizations have realized that the frustrations of the middle and working class in America have risen to a level to repulse the desires of our growing urban centers. The win for the Trump campaign has lead many, I included, to optimistically hope that President-Elect Trump and the GOP will focus like a laser on issues related to the middle class. This is not the time to further lift up the rich, but you need to provide a hand to the poor and working families. But, how will the new administration support rural schools? That is the new question we as educators are asking.
My comments today are focused on what I hope the Trump presidency could do for education in rural America. I am not focusing on urban, urban poor, or suburban. My thoughts are directed specifically at us out here in the middle lands of America. Those of us that live in rural America. President Trump here is what we need you to do for us, those that elected you.
President-Elect Trump I hope you are listening. Your election as our President was in no small way, achieved due to the hopes of rural America. We do believe you can make America great again. Just, don’t forget the young people in our schools.
If you are a fan of ESPN and their NFL broadcast you will know about their C’mon Man segments. This is where they point out funny and not so funny mistakes by players, fans, and officials. Here is one of their previous segments.
So I thought I would share some of my Cmon Man moments from school.
Have a great week!