BY MATT SCHOEN
Superintendent, Delano Public Schools
You may recall last fall the Delano Public School District facilitated an operating levy referendum to increase the dollar amount per student to keep and maintain educational excellence.
That levy failed by 159 votes. Due to the failure of last year’s levy referendum, the school district had to make approximately $750,000 of cuts and fee increases in order to maintain a fiscally responsible budget. The cuts included three teacher positions between the elementary and middle schools, two paraprofessional (teacher assistants) positions, a high school nurse position, and a district administrative assistant position. Other reductions included but were not limited to, the area of transportation and supply budgets. We also increased fees by 50 percent in the areas of activities (sports) and parking fees for high school students.
We also cut all funding to staff development. This is an area where teachers are able to receive training to meet the ever increasing challenges of educating our students in the 21st century. In the business world, this is called research and development. Can you imagine if companies like Microsoft or Apple stopped spending money to train their staff for the next technological advancements in the industry?
Yet, this is our financial reality. After the failed operating levy referendum last year, we made difficult decisions in reducing our expenses for this current school year. Our class sizes in second through sixth grades are at historical numbers regarding the student to teacher ratio.
Class sizes might not mean as much to a person who is not in school, but let’s look at it from another occupation that most people are familiar with, air traffic controllers. For obvious reasons, air traffic controllers are only responsible for guiding a specific number of airplanes to land at the airport. If you have too many airplanes to track, you are not going to be performing at the optimal level to guide your airplanes.
Teachers have the same conundrum. If the number of students gets to be too large, they begin to lose their effectiveness in providing educational excellence. This is very concerning to educators, just as too many airplanes are very concerning to air traffic controllers. This is our reality and we are and will continue to provide the ultimate learning experience for every student in our district.
If both questions do not pass, we will be faced with an unrealistic financial situation that will affect the education of our students. Even if the first question passes and the second one does not, the district will be forced to make additional reductions to a very lean operating budget. The impact would be a revenue reduction of over $1 million over a two-year period.
Like I have said before, we are at a critical financial juncture. This article is not intended to strike fear in the hearts of our community members, I am merely presenting the facts and the financial reality that faces our school district in the very near future.