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Counselors, libriarians safe from school budget cuts

POULSBO — North Kitsap School District administrators rolled out their proposed 2010-11 budget last week, identifying substantial cuts but keeping counselor and librarian positions intact.

“I was very pleased that our district has decided to fill those positions for next year,” North Kitsap Education Association President Chris Fraser said. “I think that decision reflects the concerns that were brought to the board regarding how important those services are to our students.”

The community-based Citizens Budget Review Committee and the district’s Budget Advisory Team both recommended reducing the number of counselors in the district last month. Both had also discussed reducing library staff, but ultimately did not recommend it. The recommendation regarding counselors brought criticism from parents, teachers and other community members.

“Do the right thing and keep our kids working productively in the classroom and safe by knowing there is someone in the school they can talk to, learn from and help deal with their feelings and surroundings,” Renee Arcement, the parent of a recent North Kitsap High graduate, said at a June 24 school board meeting.

District Superintendent Rick Jones said he and other district administrators saw the community’s concern regarding counselors and librarians, and opted to recommend other budget cuts instead.

“I think that nobody wanted to cut counselors and librarians,” Jones said. “The two (budget) committees both were given targets and they wrestled with, ‘How could we reach this target?’”

The district’s budget team had recommended leaving a vacant elementary counselor position open, saving an estimated $80,000. The citizens budget team had recommended reducing the number of counselors in the district, saving an estimated $140,000.

The district currently staffs 17.657 full-time equivalent counselor jobs, filled by 20 people, and 10.5 librarian positions, filled by 12 people.

In maintaining the librarian and counselor positions, district administrators have recommended alternative cuts. The 2010-11 draft budget includes reductions in teacher training and Native American education costs, among others.

The North Kitsap School Board also reduced its spending for the next school year. The board’s operating budget for the 2009-10 school year was $206,739, and it spent $159,339. The board has budgeted $85,150 for the 2010-11 school year.

“We’ve been cutting in this district for so long now that any cut we make now is really hurting,” Jones said.

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