North Kitsap School District: No budget recommendation is off the table

North Kitsap School District Board Member Ed Strickland would like to see budget cuts come from the
North Kitsap School District Board Member Ed Strickland would like to see budget cuts come from the 'upper echelon' of the school district, meaning from administrative staff, he said during Thursday's board meeting.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

POULSBO -- Emotional pleas to save school counselors from the budget ax dominated the discussion at Thursday night’s North Kitsap School District meeting.

In response to budget recommendations from two separate groups – the district’s Budget Advisory Team and the Citizens’ Budget Review Committee – teachers, community members and school counselors spared no emotion or fact in pleading their case.

“Students in schools with counseling programs tend to have a more positive experience and feel safer in schools,” said Renee Arcement, a parent whose daughter grew up in the district’s schools. “In addition, studies of middle schools with comprehensive counseling programs found that students earned higher grades, had more positive relationships with teachers and felt more satisfied with teachers.”

The district is facing a $700,000 shortfall in the 2010-11 budget, brought on by cuts in state funding. One of the recommendations the board will consider is not replacing counseling positions open because of attrition at the elementary and high school level. The elementary position is full-time, while the high school position is a .8 full time position.

While the school district is set to adopt its budget in August, one board member already has his mind made up on the counselor issue. As far as Board Member Ed Strickland is concerned, cutting counselors at the elementary school level is absolutely off the table. In a verbal sparring match between Strickland and district Superintendent Rick Jones, Strickland made it clear he thought teachers had seen enough cuts and it was time administrators share the pain.

The issue, Strickland said, was that teachers have already been affected because the state had ceased funding two Learning Improvement Days.

Strickland proposed several times that rather than hire a new principal to replace Suquamish Elementary’s Joe Davalos that a certificated administrator should fill the position. That, he said, would spare the district in paying a principal’s salary .

When Jones mentioned that he’d already appointed an interim principal to replace Davalos, who is leaving the district to become the Suquamish Tribe’s superintendent, Strickland accused Jones of overstepping his boundaries.

“I’m in charge of staffing decisions and I make them,” Jones said.

Neither budget committee stuck with an earlier recommendation to cut one elementary school librarian and share one between Pearson and Breidablik elementary schools. Jones cautioned that it’s too early to omit any recommendations.

Budget discussions will continue at the board’s next meeting at 7 p.m. on July 8 at the district’s administrative office.

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