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White River celebrates year-end budget savings

The year-end budget presented to the White River School Board at its regular meeting Nov. 18 was filled with good news.

The belt-tightening that has been happening is paying off.

District Business Manager Mona Moan informed the board that when the district closed out its 2008-09 budget there was $2 million in reserves, $1.4 million of that unreserved in case of emergency.

The district started the year with $650,000, a large chunk of that in unreserved funds, and forced to make $3 million in cuts from a $40 million budget.

The state intervened and suggested the district build a reserve of 5 percent to cover an emergency or at least its $2.5 million monthly payroll if a situation should arise.

The board figured in these lean times if it could put away 1 percent a year, in five years it would meet the 5 percent suggestion.

“We did a great job last year and obviously we’re going to get there a lot faster,” Moan said.

The district’s unreserved fund is now at 3.88 percent.

“It was a great year for us,” Moan said. “There was money we purposely did not spend. It’s the little things that all add up after a while.”

“It’s important to realize how much work and how much pain it’s taken to get to this point,” Superintendent Tom Lockyer said. “We brought Mona in to make this district soluable and I applaud her for that, we’ve come a long way.”

“Not me,” Moan said. “Once the people were aware of what needed to be done it was a group effort.”

Moan said if the district can stay the course, she’s optimistic it can start building balanced budgets.

In other business, the board:

• announced its next regular meeting for 6 p.m. Dec. 9 in the board conference room.

• hosted a discussion with Rep. Chris Hurst - (D) Greenwater. Hurst, who is serving his fourth term in the House, is visiting city councils, school boards and fire districts in the area collecting information for the Legislative session.

Hurst spoke of the “catastrophic economic events” that are forcing the state into “survival mode.” He said he and others may not be able to shore up more funding, but hopefully will be able to provide more flexibility. He asked the board and administrators to provide a list of state-required programs that are not funded as well as other issues his staff can examine.

“We’ve got a zillion decisions to make on education,” Hurst said, among those an examination of how education is funded.

Lockyer told Hurst of the 10 percent that was trimmed from the district’s $40 million budget this year.

“The impact that placed on our district is we have no where else to go,” Lockyer said.

Board members also expressed concerns about the state’s Becca Bill, which deals with student truancy, and the proposed closure of neighboring Rainier State School.

Hurst said, “I will do everything in my power to see that (closing Rainier) does not happen.”

• honored out-going board members Joe Dieringer and John McArtor for their service. Dieringer has served on the board for eight years and McArtor, five. Both received a plaque and sweatshirt. The two were scheduled to be part of the board’s presentation at Friday’s Washington State School Directors Association meeting.

“I’ve been truly been blessed with this board for the past five years,” Lockyer said. He said he values their work and they have been assets to the district.

• listened to White River High School Principal Mike Hagadone and assistant principals Greg Borgerding and Lainey Mathews provide updated information on the school’s Learning Improvement Plan. Each presented the board with information on the high school’s work in the areas of math, science and English. Teachers are working to get students the extra support they need to be successful, as well as analyzing work and processing data to focus on student learning.

• was updated on changes taking place at White River Alternative Programs. Principal Elaine Elliot, Suzanne Gonzales and Lorine Hegel mentioned the closure of the junior high program. WRAP, which serves the White River, Enumclaw, Sumner and Orting school districts, now offers four programs – Choice, the parent partnership, the alternative high school, credit retrieval program and the on-line distance learning program.

Leaders have also put in a regular student status check; worked in extra time and support for students on Fridays, which Elliot said is bringing in between 50 and 70 students; developed a year-long master schedule; computerized records, transcripts and other student data; set up Family Access; and added special education support classes.

The superintendents from each of the school districts recently visited and were also informed of the changes. Still ahead, Elliot noted, are plans to streamline the enrollment process and to look deeper into who the kids are and why they come to an alternative program.

• approved a $12,000 donation from the Wilkeson PTA to purchase five desk top computers with monitors and 10 laptops and licensing.

• approved out-of-state travel for Randy Wilson and the DECA to New York City through the Field Studies Center in May and DECA International Career Development Conference Louisville in April.

• Janel Keating who reported district hosted 30 visitors from Hood River, Ore., Granger, and Moses Lake school districts who visited the high school, Mountain Meadow and Foothills elementary schools to learn about Professional Learning Communities and then participated in a question and answer period with administrators.

“It was a good visit the stuff to be proud off,” Keating said. Peninsula High School teachers were in the district Thursday working with teachers at the high school.

• White River High School Associated Student Body report. Katiejo Clinkingbeard and Gabbie Wesner reproted that the meetings have been well attended and the students involved. Have established a Wall of FAme to honor students, cafeteria cleanliness program, Buzz Off posters to keep students out of learning areas during lunch and offered kudos to a number of groups and organizations.

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