Each spring, the district completes a process to develop the budget for the next school year. For the past several years, we have focused on making budget cuts. However, over the past two years, the state legislature has begun to take steps to fully fund Basic Education as a result of the McCleary state Supreme Court decision, which ruled that the state was not meeting its obligation to fully fund K-12 public education as required by the state constitution. As a result, we are now in the unusual financial position to be able to make General Fund budget additions instead of General Fund budget cuts.
In terms of the budget process, I began the discussion with our Board in March to seek their input and priorities. Building, department, and central office leaders complete a process for making any budget addition requests. A representative leadership team meets throughout the spring to review and prioritize requests. Feedback from staff and parents informs our prioritization processes.
This year, we improved our processes to ensure that the budget prioritization closely aligns with our strategic planning process. We are being very intentional about linking our strategic work with our resource needs (time, people, and money) to ensure that we are appropriately aligning resources to accomplish our strategic work. We know that it is critically important that we make budget addition decisions that align to our strategic goals, objectives, and priority work, so we can continue to strive to achieve our mission and vision for students. In May, our Board’s work session focused on budget. In June, I will ultimately bring a final budget proposal forward to our Board. The Board will hold the required public hearing in August and take final action on the proposed 2014-15 budget at that time.
Since this is my last column for this school year, I wanted to let you know about some of the high priority items, connected to our strategic goals and objectives, which will be part of the budget package I recommend to the School Board. Note that this is not the final budget proposal, but rather some of the highlights:
Goal: Ensure Academic Success for Every Student
The budget package will include additional high school counselors, funding to provide zero and 7th period class opportunities at our high schools, and Title I Facilitators for our Title I schools.
High School Counselors: Our high school counselors play a key role in helping our students to be Future Ready. House Bill 6552, passed in the last legislative session, increases credit-based graduation requirements to 24, beginning with the class of 2019. In order to graduate, students will be required to earn 24 credits, an increase from our district’s current 22 credit requirement. Each student will have a “personalized pathway” that outlines their path for course taking that aligns with their post-secondary plans. Additional high school counselors will help to ensure that each one of our high school students meets the increased requirements and graduates Future Ready.
Zero and 7th period Opportunities for High School Students: With the 24-credit requirement on the horizon, we recognize the need to provide the potential for more flexibility for course taking, beyond the regular 6 period day. Through a recent high school student and parent survey, we learned the many students and parents had potential interest in taking a seventh class if available. By allocating up to 1.0 FTE to our high schools, we will have the opportunity to provide some classes outside of the regular day, at a zero or 7th period. This will help us further gauge interest in additional classes, especially in light of the increasing credit requirement that we must implement beginning with the class of 2019.
Title I School Support: Each school that receives federal Title I funds will benefit from a facilitator to assist school leadership in maintaining compliance requirements and improvement efforts associated with Title I.
Goal: Provide Safe and Innovative Learning Environments
The budget package will include additional School Nurses, additional grounds staff, and additional custodial staff.
School Nurses: The role of our health specialists / school nurses is essential to our students’ success. Students with health conditions must have equal access to high quality education, in an environment that minimizes the impact of a student’s health conditions and prepares students to care for themselves in proactive ways that lead to positive lifelong outcomes in their health and wellbeing. School nurses are integral partners in our district’s effort to influence positive student achievement outcomes. Nurses work with school staff to minimize the impact of student health conditions on educational achievement. In addition, school nurses assist families in accessing health and community resources. The addition of five health specialists / school nurses will enable our district to better meet the needs of our students and schools, during a time of increasing enrollment and increasing medical needs of our students. Additional staff will allow us to maintain a safe environment for our students that more closely aligns to our surrounding districts’ school nursing support.
Grounds Staff: Maintaining our fields and grounds was another area that was reviewed. Support Services completed an assessment of the amenities and condition of all district fields. They identified staffing levels needed to adequately maintain fields and to have our sites demonstrate the pride and care we have for our schools. The new positions that will be hired along with the rest of our dedicated and hard-working staff will help us achieve these goals.
Custodial Staff: Our building custodians play an essential role in ensuring that our buildings are clean, safe, and healthy places to work and learn. The care these devoted staff show for our facilities demonstrates their commitment to our students, staff, and community. In reviewing our staffing in this area, it became apparent that the amount of space per custodial staff member varied significantly between levels. Based on current staffing levels, elementary custodians are responsible to clean an average of 28,000 square feet, while secondary custodians clean an average of over 44,000 square feet. As a result, the additional staffing will be focused at the secondary level. In addition, custodial staffing at the Resource Center and Support Services buildings, cut in past budget reductions, will be partially restored.
Goal: Recruit, hire, and retain highly effective personnel
Providing quality professional learning support to staff is key to our success as an organization and to the success of our students. In the past, during our years of budget cuts, we experienced reductions in professional learning support. Over the past several years, much research has been conducted about effective professional learning. That research has informed our plans, which we are now in a financial position to implement. We know that the ability to provide quality professional learning support plays a key role in our ability to goal to Ensure Academic Success for Every Student.
K-5 Literacy Coaches: The primary role of a K-5 literacy instructional coach is to provide job-embedded and just in time professional learning. This work includes school- based one-to-one coaching, coaching of Professional Collaborative Communities (PCC), and large group training. A K-5 literacy coach applies adult learning theory and coaching strategies in the field to support the implementation of English Language Arts Common Core State Standards with the adopted comprehensive literacy curriculum (Wonders). A literacy instructional coach offers professional support through classroom visits and reflective conversation, workshops, peer-to-peer classroom visits, and gathering and analyzing student growth data for the Professional Growth and Evaluation System.
K-12 Professional Learning Coaches: The primary role of a professional learning coach is to provide job-embedded and just-in-time professional learning, including school-based one-to-one coaching, coaching of PCCs, and large group training. A professional learning coach applies adult learning theory and coaching strategies in the field to support the application of Common Core State Standards, district curriculum and assessment, and other initiatives as identified. A professional learning coach offers professional support through classroom visits and reflective conversation, workshops, peer-to-peer classroom visits, and gathering and analyzing student growth data for the Professional Growth and Evaluation System.
Professional Learning Specialists: The primary role of a professional learning specialist is to support the design, development, implementation and evaluation of professional learning activities for educators and administrators. Professional learning activities include courses, workshops, seminars, academies, as well as online and blended learning activities. Additional job responsibilities will include supporting the work of the professional learning coaches.
There are other additions to the budget that we are continuing to review and prioritize, including items for other strategic goal areas. These are some of the items that met the organization’s needs and priorities we heard from staff and parents.
I appreciate how hard our staff has worked during these years of budget cuts to cover items that were taken away. These additions will greatly enhance our abilities to serve the students, families and communities in our district.
Dr. Traci Pierce
Lake Washington School District