School year began with levy renewal

The North Kitsap School District embraced the 2009-2010 school year with an optimistic outlook.

The district received the support it was looking for from the public when voters passed the renewal of the levy tax. Voters approved the renewal of the levy, which was originally passed in 2006, with a 71 percent “yes” vote.

The tax allows the district to collect about $13 million in 2011, almost $14 million in 2012 and about $14 million in 2013. The estimated maximum tax rate is $1.96 per $1,000 of property value.

A percentage of the levy supports school programs, such as athletics, while 59 percent pays for teachers and staff and 17 percent for instructional materials.

The levy funds became an important factor in avoiding layoffs.

The district announced that during the 2010-2011 year, the $400,000 increase in levy revenue, along with $400,000 in reserves, allowed the district to trim from programs instead of jobs.

Funding was not the only factor in saving jobs, as 24 teachers either retired, resigned or took full or partial leaves of absence.

As the district looks forward to the 2011-2012 year, the budget outlook is less than desirable.

During an emergency special session on Dec. 11, lawmakers began working on removing $1.1 billion from an approximate $4.8 billion shortfall next year. Among the cuts made, $375,000 was cut from funding for kindergarten through fourth grade.

This is only the beginning.

Because the district has cut from programs for years, there are few options but to begin cutting jobs, said Superintendent Richard Jones.

“There is a common phrase used around here; you trim the tree of its low-hanging fruit first,” Jones said of the schools budget. “Well, there is no more low-hanging fruit.”

It was not all gloom for NK schools.

Programs on the chopping block were sustained through community efforts, such as Suquamish Elementary.

Parents gathered for the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year, where an annual auction helped increase the budget. Raising private funds for public education is common for Washington State and NKSD is no different. However, the fundraiser accumulated enough money to partially support reading and math labs, as well as the school’s safety patrol program and clubs.

The district also made attempts to provide more higher education opportunities for students by creating options to earn “honors designations.” These designations, added to certain classes, allow students of Kingston and Poulsbo Middle Schools to take on more rigorous work without a separate curriculum. However, these honors options were met with scrutiny as parents worried about the increased workload on students without proper instruction.

Attempts at improving Native American education also continued as NKSD teamed up with Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallum tribes to determine the best ways to spend federal grant money. Though these talks are still underway and occur annually, the district has begun taking steps to add additional Native American history into classes.

Though the district made strides to better education, its hiring practices were brought into question.

After nine years of being rehired yearly as a French teacher, Keith Johnson was refused an interview. This brought about concerns from parents and staff as the district maintains a retire-rehire policy through the state. Johnson worked for the district for more than 20 years, but was denied an interview without a reason.

We review school events from the second half of 2010 in the Dec. 31 edition of the North Kitsap Herald.

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