WACO directors okay $145,000 in cutsBoard also hears student attendance is up, failing grades are down
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
WAYLAND — It was a mixed bag of news for the WACO School Board during its regular meeting last night at the WACO Junior/Senior High School.
Directors heard that student attendance rates had increased and failing grades decreased during the first semester of the current term.
However, with the good came some not-so-good news.
School directors had to grab the scissors again, cutting $145,000 in personnel costs from fiscal 2014-2015’s budget expenditures. Some of the pain will come from attrition, but 4.2 full-time equivalency (FTE) positions will be reduced, the reductions in staff being primarily para-educators.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Darrell Smith recommended reducing the FTE for para-educators from 22 positions to 18, an expenditure reduction of $46,000.
A reduction of .2 FTE will be made in the K-12 music department, leaving 2.5 FTE instructors. That cut will reduce expenses by $9,500.
Finally one full-time certified staff member will not be replaced at the elementary school ($65,000 savings) and the special-education staff will be reduced by a full-time teacher ($25,000 expenditure cut).
Smith noted that staff reductions are by far the least favorite part of his duties. “This is tough because fine arts (music) takes a hit,” he remarked. “We have to stay ahead of the game and that is not easy.”
Over the last decade, the school district has seen an annual decline in enrollment of between 10-20 students annually. Smith and board members said they could be repeating the action (budget cuts) a year from now.
“Is it painful? Yes, it is,” chimed in Todd Meyer, board member. “We are talking $150,000 this year and probably $150,000 next year.”
The board and Smith agreed that the cuts are nearing the point of impacting the school’s education programming.
Board President Tim Graber preferred to look at the district through a glass half-full approach. “I am optimistic we can stop the bleeding,” he remarked. “It is amazing what we have done this year (in facilities and school climate improvement) and all for the positive.”
A finance committee comprised of board members Graber and Meyer along with Carrie Coble, school board secretary/school business manager and the district’s three administrators met several times during the school year to study next year’s expenditures.
And for the good news, Tom McNamar and Jeremy Klopfenstein of the district’s climate and culture committee, reported some dramatic shifts this year in student attendance and grades.
During the first semester of the current term, just 5.3 percent of the student body (grades 9-12) were absent during any given period of any given day. The district’s historical average over the past four school years reflects that the district has averaged 8.12 percent of the student body absent during any given period of any given day, including a high of 8.7 percent during the 2009-10 school year.
Additionally, the failure rate is decreasing. Just six students (3.2 percent) failed a course during the fall semester this year. The five-year average has 16.48 percent of the students failing a course during the school year.
In 2012-13 school year, 35 students (or 17.2 percent) failed a course at WACO. The five-year high was during the 2010-11 school year when 42 students (19.2 percent) failed a course.
WACO’s average rate of class failure during those five years is 16.5 percent.
McNamar, who handled the primary presentation of the report, said he was unsure what to make of it.
“Statistically, something is gong on which is a positive,” McNamar said. “More kids are in their seats and more are passing.
“I really don’t know why it (failure rate) has dropped,” he continued. “It is too early in what we are doing to have any conclusions, but the anomaly is exciting. WACO is doing a lot of innovative things this year. We have things going well and are going to try to keep them going well.”
McNamar, an instrumental music instructor in the district, admitted he was “slightly reticent to put it (information) out because we don’t know for sure what it means.”
The board, however, was glad the committee did. “This is a pretty impressive list of what has changed,” Graber noted.
Switching gears to facilities, directors accepted the low bid of $9,466.80 from Orval Miller and Sons for new restroom partitions at the Wayland building. Bids ranged upward to $13,750.
Smith told the board he is going to have the job to replace the current football/track bleachers re-bid. “I was not real happy with the process and not real pleased with either company,” he said.
The board did reject the two bids the district received.
In a final facilities item, Smith said the bleachers in the high school’s main gymnasium will be installed after July 1, partially because the bleachers are needed for graduation.
The board also:
• Accepted the resignation of Renea Reichenbach as student council advisor. Reichenbach shared the positon with another instructor this school year.
• Passed the budget guarantee resolution.
• Set April 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center as the date and time for a public hearing on the fiscal 2014-15 budget and for a public hearing on an amendment to the current budget.
The board meets again in regular session Monday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center.