Enumclaw schools staying in shape for future

The Enumclaw School District’s “State of the District” presentation Jan. 27 started with a story about “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the vision of a 10-year-old J.J. Smith Elementary School student to become a teacher. It ended with a student spokesperson from each level of education – kindergarten through 12th grade – and the Enumclaw High marching band playing the fight song. And in between Superintendent Mike Nelson and his staff updated a nearly-full auditorium of community members on what has been happening in the Enumclaw School District the past year and what to look forward to in the future.

School Board President Cathy Dahlquist opened the event with introductions and a plea for the community to play an active role in the district’s success as the challenges of today’s economy continue to work against education.

Much of the presentation was information the district has kept in front of the public throughout the year like its work on community relations, its updated math curriculum and assessment and its drive to bring more technology to classrooms and fix failing roofs and broken heating systems.

The biggest news involved the challenges the district will face due to predicted losses in funding from the state budget.

Nelson said the district is not immune to cuts, but due to prior reductions from the district office, transportation and other areas, they did not impact classrooms directly. This time may be different.

With all but about $6 million of its $40 million budget tied up in salaries and benefits, the district will likely have to trim $1.5 to $2 million, Nelson noted.

“It will be a difficult and trying time for all 295 school districts,” he said.

District leadership’s goal is to make those cuts in an open, honest and transparent way.

“We want to do this in the most thoughtful way, especially if it involves people since 85 percent of the budget is people,” he said.

The next two to three months will be crucial, he said, especially since the district’s budget likely needs to be drawn up before the Legislature recesses.

Nelson concluded his part of the evening on a positive note, pointing out the district’s high literacy achievement results, large numbers of Nationally Board Certified Teachers, Southwood Elementary School’s School of Distinction honor, the high school’s athletic and activity successes and praised the staff and kids who make up the heart of the district.

Afterward, audience members were invited to the EHS library for a dessert buffet courtesy of the high school culinary arts program, a demonstration of technology the district hopes to add to classrooms with the passage of its Tuesday levy and information about each of the district’s schools.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.