In the midst of a budget crisis, the Orion school board is confident the district can become financially sound without hurting education, Superintendent David Deets told audiences at school forums last week.
As a matter of fact, Deets said he believes the district will be able to raise the bar for its students, challenging them and stretching their minds.
“We hope the budget for 2010-11 will be as efficient as it can be and still not impact education more than it has to,” he said.
Administrators and board members want to achieve two goals as they work toward a solution of the district’s problems, Deets said.
Maintain quality education
The superintendent said one goal is to support the most critical factors that lead to academic achievement.
“In our opinion we looked at areas we thought had not impacted the quality of education as much as other areas,” Deets said at the C.R. Hanna forum on Wednesday, April 7.
“We can maintain the high quality of education for all students,” the superintendent said at the Orion High School forum a day earlier. “The core will not suffer.”
Some staff members will have to do things they have not done before, Deets said.
OHS teacher Becky Nightingale said she was concerned about teachers not being in the jobs they’re best at, even if they have the certificate to teach the new subjects.
Dan Diamond, a teacher at Orion Middle School, asked how the changes would affect test scores.
“Because of what goes on in the buildings, test scores will go up at least for a while,” Deets said.
Students are tested on core subjects, such as reading and math, he said. The district is committed to making sure performance in the core subjects improves.
Involvement in athletics, music and physical education increases test scores, said Andrea Kapusinski, the choral director at OHS?and OMS. The budget reduction plan affects all three areas.
A lot of research indicates music is important, Deets acknowledged.
As a graduate of Augustana College, Diamond said he knew students seeking a liberal arts degree needed to take more than core subjects.
The other goal is to maintain the district’s reserves, and thus protecting the quality of education now and in the future, Deets said.
Administrators already know the district will have to dip into its reserves to cover the shortfall in state aid for this year. The amount could be as little as $200,000 or as much as $400,000.
He wants to avoid having to borrow money to meet payroll. The state is having difficulty partly because it borrowed from Peter to pay Paul.
Page 2 of 2 - No matter how much the district wants to avoid borrowing money and selling working cash bonds, it will be necessary to borrow money to repair the Orion High School roof, Deets said.
Borrowing money means paying interest, the superintendent said.
If the district sells working cash bonds, district residents can block the sale until they have a chance to vote on it, Deets said.
“We would have a hard time passing a bond referendum in these economic times,” he said.