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Page weighs in on superintendent position
POULSBO — Despite budget cuts and declining enrollment in the North Kitsap School District, Patrice Page believes district staff members should not lose sight of student achievement.
Page knows the district faces further budget reductions next year, along with declining enrollment, which will affect the amount of state funding the district receives. However, Page, the first of three superintendent finalists to visit the district, said the district has "some amazing things going on."
"Never lose sight of students and the focus that they are the most important thing," she said during a community meeting Monday night.
The second finalist to visit the district was Robert Kuehl. The third finalist, David Gray, will meet with the community Wednesday night in the district board room at 7:45 p.m.
Page, who is currently the superintendent of Coupeville School District, said she knows the difficulties of balancing a budget.
Coupeville, which had a student population of 1,039 in May 2011, cut about $1.2 million from its budget for the 2011-12 school year — a significant amount for a district with three schools a couple alternative programs. When it comes to making cuts, she said administration is not exempt when trying to keep cuts away from the classroom. However, with an expected decline of 114 students next year — the district receives more than $6,000 in state and federal funding per student — and more funding cuts from the state, she said there will most likely be cuts that affect the classroom.
If the district is going to reduce funding from a program, Page said it becomes necessary to try and "back-fill" it. This would involve providing the same services in another way, possibly having another staff member take up extra responsibilities.
"It would be painful," Page said of budget cuts. "But it's doable and the heart and passion is here to make it work."
Because the superintendent and school board both play critical roles in decision making, Page said there is an ongoing process in keeping communication open. Relationships need to be built. In her previous roles, she would meet on a monthly basis individually with board members to hear concerns.
"One is to be very intentional about building that relationship," Page said. "You can't establish something and expect it to stay. You have to keep working at it."
Though she expects the next superintendent, who will replace Richard Jones July 1, will not have to deal with the decision of whether to close a school, she knows it will require more than a yes or no. Whether a school is closed, which would save the district about $800,000, or that amount of money is cut from other areas, Page said "healing" would need to be done.
And, while cuts are coming, Page believes in giving students a "diverse set of options" when it comes to learning. This includes making sure alternative programs and arts and technical programs and remedial and gifted programs are all kept in place. She said the district needs to "meet each students where they are."
Nathaniel Smith, an Options teacher and parent of two Options students, said he appreciated the comments Page made about alternative learning. Though programs, such as the arts, are what teachers believe make well-rounded students, he said those are also the programs that are first to go with budget cuts. His initial repines, was an appreciation with what she had to say.
Page entered into education as a teacher at Clover Park High School in 1977. Her most recent positions are assistant superintendent of Kelso School District and superintendent of Coupeville School District. Kelso is similar in size to North Kitsap.