ConVal: Board looks at budget numbers

ConVal: Board looks at budget numbers

Abby Kessler

ConVal school district leaders submitted a $45.8 million proposed budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

The proposal represents a spending decrease of .04 percent, which reduced the operating budget over the previous year.

“We are hopeful the school board will view this blueprint as a fiscally responsible plan which moves forward on the goals to improve and expand quality,” Superintendent Kimberly Saunders said in a news release. “We were able to keep spending flat for all items over which we can control.”

Although the overall operating budget has shrunk, slashes to state education due to declining student enrollment and substantial increases to the mandated state’s retirement system will nudge the district assessment up by less than 1 percent.

The district lost about $59,000 in state aid funding next year. Business Administrator Marian Alese said the district anticipated losing $280,000 in state aid in its upcoming budget, although that impact was mitigated by a lawsuit brought forth against the state.

Saunders said the district also had to absorb a $200,000 retirement-fee increase.

One significant cost saving measure came as a result of reduced health-care costs. 

SWIFT support

Program leaders with a national technical assistance program have agreed to work with the district on ways to improve all aspects of its public education programs.

ConVal will be the first district in the U.S. to use the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation, or SWIFT, technical support in an attempt to strengthen school services and educational quality for all students.

The assessment will occur without any cost to taxpayers.

In the coming months, SWIFT will assess educational programs at the school, including administration and leadership, educational supports for teachers, family and community engagement, school culture, curriculum and extra-curricular activities. SWIFT will then work with administrators to devise ways to use existing resources to improve schools.

Saunders said this is a multi-year effort that has shown proven results in schools around the country, although this is the first time it will be applied to assess and improve the operations of an entire district.

“We are honored to be the first school district in the country to apply this approach to boosting quality,” she said.

“Our goal is to create a districtwide culture where all community members value what happens in schools and participate in decision-making,” said Cari Christian-Coates, who is the assistant director of student services.

GES shutdown

Saunders said the cancellation of school at Greenfield Elementary School last month as a result of a threat directed at one of its staff members reinforced the strength of the district’s emergency plan.

“We were very fortunate that this threat turned out to be unfounded,” Saunders told board members. “What we saw was that our emergency response was outstanding.”

She said they were able to debrief with school staff and the community in an effective and timely fashion.

“We’ll use that information to be able to be stronger if there was ever any other emergency,” she said.