Monday, April 20, 2009

Olympia School District I-728 Forum liveblog

Welcome to the annual I-728 Forum, in which the Olympia School District takes public comment on its prioritization of I-728 funds. Usually only 2-3 people show up; this year, despite the sunshine and pre-summer weather outside, about 17 are here. The reason: depending on the budget that ultimately comes down from the legislature, the District stands to lose anywhere from $940,000 to $3.7 million.

Most of that money pays for teaching positions.

The Pledge aside, Jim Crawford begins the meeting by discussing the basics of I-728--where it came from (the voters), what it's used for (smaller classes / more teachers, mostly) and where it's going (la mort, as the French would say).

Crawford runs down the state spending, which is pretty different from our own. Example: statewide, schools use about 19% of their I-728 funds for professional development. We use 6%-13% depending on the year.

A few more folks have trickled in. Crawford, taking a quick break from his summary, asks if anyone wants to comment during the forum. Nope. Guess everyone came to listen and learn, at least for now.

Crawford notes that "by itself, reducing class size is not sufficient to improve student outcomes to the desired level." Indeed. At the secondary level, the effect on learning is smaller--likely because students change classes throughout the day. However, I-728 money currently allows our area high schools to offer a wide variety of courses. If it's gone, so are many electives.

Crawford finished and the Board recessed for five minutes at 6:25 or so. Now the room is filling up, around fifty people in attendance. We'll have to see what's brought everybody here tonight.

Pledge #2. I'm banking it alongside my sick time.

It's not all bad news. Entertainment Explosion just presented the District's homeless program with a $2,000 check.

Jeff Carpenter, facilities guru for the District, is talking about allowing greater community use of Ingersoll Stadium. I don't have a cowpoke in this rodeo, so I'm checking out to grade papers for a few minutes, unless something crazy happens.

Public comment begins on the Ingersoll Stadium issue. The first speaker is doing a line-by-line rebuttal of the District's recommendation, so I'm going to duck back down and get more homework done.

To the woman who, when notified of her turn to speak, replied, I don't need to, everything's already been said: bless you.

Regarding the ongoing Ingersoll complaints, a citizen who couldn't attend, one Ray Dinwiddie, has his letter read by a neighbor. There's a brief question about his precise address, but really, no need. Dinwiddie's spoken before the Board the last time the stadium was a hot topic, back in 2003. From the archives:
He stated that the District’s credibility with respect to the management of the stadium is not good because of its unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions. He recalled complaining to the District about a revival event, a dog show, walk-a-thon, that they are upset about policies that are so wide open. He stated that the neighbors don’t trust you, that this is a very grave issue that must be addressed, that the stadium is not an asset, but a liability because of the problems it presents to the neighborhood.
Oh, and Dinwiddie invented a fireplace insert a while back. Amazing thing, Google.

After a brief break, we're back in action. By the way, this is a regularly scheduled Board meeting we're in, no longer the I-728 Forum in the title of the post. If you're still reading.

Bonnie Guyer-Graham asks the District to consider the differences between schools when apportioning funding. (She said about the same thing last budget go-round.) Ellen Rice (this Ellen Rice) asks the district to consider smarter ways of managing personnel, similar to the substance of the linked comment. Oh, and Ellen, a clarification: the District hasn't sent any RIF letters yet; they've merely set the process in motion. Last week I erred in saying they'd voted to do even that--it was expected, but the vote took place about fifteen minutes after Ellen spoke, and that after a vote to inaugurate the process of setting the process in motion. First--and last meeting--they had to hear the resolution to inaugurate the process of setting the process in motion. (I don't have a law degree, if it isn't obvious.)

Jim Crawford again, dishing out the bad news that we've all known in our guts for some time: we're going to have to make reductions and modifications at all levels and in all programs, certificated and classified. Ax or chainsaw, take your pick. And, of course, all of this depends on how vicious the legislature will be.

A moment of gallows humor. Frank Wilson tosses out the idea of squeezing the end fund balance even tighter, instead of making steep cuts. Wouldn't work, says Superintendent Lahmann, because it's not sustainable for more than a couple years.
Wilson, joking: "Except by that time, the state's going to fully fund education."
Barclift: "What's in your cup, Frank?"

Once the vote on Resolution 452--the one that really sets the RIF in motion--is done, I'm outta here. I'll update tomorrow, after I see how The Olympian's Venice Buhain covers the story.

With a heavy heart, Allen Miller moves, and Frank Wilson seconds. Motion passes unanimously. Welcome to the RIF, youngsters. (I'm 30 now. I can say that.)

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