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Northshore school board begins talking budget cuts
With budget discussions having driven the state legislature into overtime, when local school board members met with the public last week, no one knew just how many dollars Olympia might or might not be sending to the Northshore School District.
Still, those local leaders said early indications were the schools could lose up to $6 million in revenues. With that in mind, the district board of directors already was looking for public input on possible budget cuts. On March 17, during one of three "Conversations with the School Board," parents said repeatedly that even if cuts become needed, they are worried about maintaining, if not increasing, the district's educational standards.
Judging from that March 17 event held at the district administration building, the "Conversations" were highly informal events, with parents sitting in circles around board members, the latter of whom posed four generalized questions. The first asked parents to name their priorities for the district.
"I think we get into this crisis mode when we do the budget asking, 'What can we cut, what can we cut?'" said parent Kirsten Senturia.
Instead of cuts, Senturia wants officials to hunt for ways to create more rigorous academic standards and better educational opportunities such as offering foreign languages in lower grade levels.
Hitting on some of the same themes, a former first grade teacher in the district who is now a stay-at-home mom, Melissa Musburger said plenty of attention is paid to struggling Northshore students. But she argued over-achievers get short-changed, with curriculum seemingly often dummied down.
"There are kids who can soar," Musburger said, but contended they aren't always given the chance. "Are our kids being prepped in those early years to be successful?" she asked.
Parent Carey Thompson said she worried if, with budget cuts, there will be more softening of the district's academic standards. Offering a unique perspective having moved here from England, Denise Nicholson said she was surprised at the level of education her son is receiving. She said the English schools her son perviously attended seemed to offer higher level academics.
While these parents were all gathered around school board member Sandy Hayes, the same concerns about allegedly low academic standards surfaced in the discussion led by board President Dawn McCravey. Parents in McCravey's group said students need to be challenged more. Like Musburger, parent Elizabeth Williamson said honors programs for advanced students are lacking.
"We are really neglecting this population," she said.
Probably predictably, besides their priorities, board members wanted to know what parents might be willing to cut. Senturia said she wants to know what is being done to reduce administrative spending. If only for public relations reasons, Senturia argued parents need to know administrators are feeling the budget pinch.
Other suggestions might not bode well for athletics in the district. One parent said while she would hate to see sports dropped, putting more sports in the pay-to-play category could save dollars for academics. Another parent essentially suggested looking into privatizing the district's transportation and food services. Cutting office staff at individual schools was yet another suggestion.
The parent who made that last comment said she likes and enjoys the assistants at her children's school, but didn't see the need for three front-office staffers.
For the most part, board members did not respond to parent suggestions, but took notes and promised more discussions down the line. Several budget workshops already were announced for April 20-22. Each session is slated for 6-8 p.m. with locations as follows: April 20 at Bothell High School; April 21 at Inglemoor High; and, April 23 at Woodinville High.
Further, the district plans to post a budget survey on their Website April 13-22. A budget information guide will be sent to parents by April 1.