$625,000 put back in school budget

In the wake of cuts that surpass $3 million in the proposed final 2013-2014 budget for the Warren County School District, approximately $625,000 in additions were figured back into the budget.

Approved by the board last week, $20,000 was included in the budget for rewriting the curriculum, $200,000 for textbook replacement, $65,000 for each of three elementary teaching positions needed due to fluctuating kindergarten enrollment, $60,000 for an accountant and computer replacements totaling $150,000.

With the steep deficits that have plagued the district for the last two fiscal years, computer and textbook replacement were victims both years.

Of the district’s 2,300 computers, approximately 25 percent are between six and nine years old. An additional 40 percent are four years old and 30 percent are three years old.

The computer replacement expense will only replace a portion of the district’s computers but where the new computers will go is still up in the air.

“We are in the process of reviewing inventory to recommend priority placement of new computers,” Acting Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

What textbooks will be replaced is also yet to be seen.

“We have pockets of textbooks in various content areas that need replaced due to age, condition, change in curriculum or change in the number of students taking courses,” Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said. “We also have equipment that was used in place of textbooks that is now out of service or in disrepair.”

The $20,000 allocated for rewriting the curriculum is partly a state requirement.

“School districts’ curriculum must be aligned with the state’s version of the Common Core standards starting next school year,” Weber said. “We have taken that a step further where we are mapping out our curriculum electronically as we rewrite it this year and next school year so that we can begin to distinguish specific areas of strength and weakness based on assessment results.”

The hope is that the mapping results will allow the district to more accurately track student achievement.

“We are creating diary maps that will allow us to go back and see where specific target areas were taught throughout the school year,” he said. “We are (also) creating common district assessments that will allow us to both assess student progress throughout the school year but also ensure that we are on target for the end of the year assessments.”

Short-staffing in the business office has prompted administration’s request for an accountant.

Explaining that the business office is down two full-time employees compared to 2009-2010, Director of Business Services Jim Grosch said, “The job functions and requirements of the business services area don’t necessarily decrease due to smaller numbers in the budget. In fact, I would say that we have increased reporting requirements as compared to the past.”

The district’s auditor commented at a board meeting earlier this year about the small size of the staff at the business office. “I can only surmise that he was comparing us to other districts he audits,” Grosch said. “My goal would be to have the district run more like a company than it may have been run in the past. We are trying to take a close look at all numbers while challenging all expenditures to help build a solid foundation to ensure a strong future for our district.”