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Mon, Sept. 23

KUSD budget, new hires on tap tonight
Frugality last year paying dividends for school district this year, finance chief says

KINGMAN - While thousands of local schoolchildren enjoy the midpoint of their summer vacation, the Kingman Unified School District's governing board is preparing for one of its most important meetings today.

The board will discuss final budget approval for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, as well as more than two dozen new hires and the creation of several new positions district-wide.

Board members will consider final approval of the district's anticipated $44.7 million annual budget for the new fiscal year, which began July 1. The budget includes $35,257,000 for maintenance and operations, $6,042,000 for unrestricted capital purchases, $2,866,000 for classroom sites and a paltry $577,000 for soft capital - money that can be spent directly on student expenses.

Technically, the district budget is actually larger than the FY2010 budget by about a million dollars, despite continuing budget difficulties at the state level. However, according to District Finance Administrator Wanda Hubbard, that number is deceiving, since roughly $4 million of the total budget for FY11 is actually reserves saved up in anticipation of further state budget cuts.

"We were very, very frugal in FY10 and we carried over a big balance knowing we would have these cuts in FY11," Hubbard said. "They were looking at between a $300 million and $800 million shortfall; but the most they could take from education is $418 million. Historically, we run approximately 1 percent of the education budget, hence the $4 million reserve."

So in actuality, the true amount KUSD will have to spend will be about 4 percent less than it had last year. All the same, however, Hubbard said the district is surprisingly healthy, given the state of Arizona's budget crisis.

"We're actually in really good shape," she said. "If we hadn't been so frugal and had that carryover from last year, you'd see different numbers in that budget."

It's not all rosy, of course - class sizes are anticipated to rise by one across the board and teachers will be going without a raise for a third straight year. But there are some bright spots, such as the allocation of more than $115,000 in new state funds for structured English immersion courses, as well as the creation of no fewer than nine new positions in addition to the 26 regular hires the board anticipates.

The nine new positions are being funded by a number of sources, including a No Child Left Behind School Improvement Grant, Title One aid and the state's Instructional Improvement Fund, paid for through Indian casino revenues.

Five of the new positions are slated for the Mt. Tipton School, a K-12 campus in Dolan Springs. The positions, paid for by the NCLB grant, include a grant coordinator, a social worker, a librarian/reading interventionist and two full-time instructional coaches.

According to District Superintendent Roger Jacks, Mt. Tipton's isolated location and wide variety of students has made it the district's top target for educational improvement, some of which was already achieved last year when the school managed its first "Performing" Arizona Learns certification, as well as numerous improvements on the statewide AIMS tests. The new positions, Jacks said, will go to assist both students and parents dealing with underlying socio-economic factors and will also aid teachers in enhancing the overall educational experience.

Mt. Tipton objectives

"Right now, we've established 43 objectives we would like to do at Mt. Tipton, and the grant administrator's going to help us facilitate meeting those objectives as well as collecting data for the grant," Jacks said. "The social worker is to work with the families in the area there; it's actually going to be a social worker/counselor."

He added that the new librarian position will provide the school with its first certified librarian, whom he said will work to build a new library program at the school, as well as to assist those students who are most at risk to fall behind in their reading development. The instructional coaches, meanwhile, will serve as assistants to the elementary and secondary sides of the school, helping individual teachers with their curriculum.

"Rather than teaching students, what they'll be doing is working with teachers to help teachers improve their instructional strategies," Jacks said. "They're really a coach to the teachers."

The total grant allocation for the Mt. Tipton positions will be $565,000 over the next three years. Jacks said he's still waiting to receive approval for another $200,000 for a pair of positions at Kingman High School.

AIMS coordinator

If approved, those two positions would comprise an AIMS prevention coordinator and an online curriculum director. Jacks said the AIMS coordinator would effectively revive an earlier state-funded position designed to intervene with children who are at risk of failing to meet state standards on the AIMS test. The online director, he said, would serve to coordinate the school's new online class system, which it plans to roll out this year.

"We launched into a new venture with online curriculum over just the last couple of months," Jacks said. "We selected a company called E2020, and they provide online curriculum."

Jacks said the high school hopes to use the online classrooms to expand its list of class offerings, especially for subjects that may not draw enough student interest to justify allocating an actual physical classroom. He said the system can also be used to make up failed classes for credit recovery, or to get an incoming transfer student up to speed with his or her coursework.

"We have students that move to Kingman in the middle of a semester and it's really hard to get them engaged in a curriculum when they've missed most of the semester," Jacks said. "This is a way for us to enroll those students right away, and they can finish up the semester doing one of these E2020 classes."

Other proposed new positions include a special education teacher for mathematics at Kingman High and a Title One para-professional at Manzanita Elementary School.

The board meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the district headquarters at 3033 MacDonald Ave. For full details of the agenda or the proposed 2010-2011 fiscal budget, visit www.kusd.org or call (928) 753-5678.

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