April 19, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
By Karen Lyncoln
for the Pathfinder
"Our biggest responsibility is to kids at this school; we must maintain the quality of education. We need to let the public know how important this levy proposal is," said Mark Williams, a member of the Seeley Lake Elementary School Board of Education at its meeting on April 10th.
Bill Hyde, Superintendent, presented a $938,944 budget for the 2001-2002 school year, $1,640 less than this year's budget. The operating budget eliminates one full-time teacher and an administrator. It provides for estimated increases in teacher salaries and utility expenses. It maintains the after-school sports program and a reading/language arts series and it maintains the library at the current level.
Hyde explained that, even with all the cost-cutting, there is still a budget shortfall of over $78,000 because 19 students have left, thereby reducing the amount of subsidy coming into the district. At the same time, the State Legislature is considering education funding bills that impact small rural districts by putting the burden of school funding at the county level. Because those bills are still in discussion, the exact amount needed in the levy is still subject to change.
"School funding needs to be reformed, but we're stuck this year," added Williams as the Board discussed the importance of passing the levy proposal.
Bart Petersen, Chair of the Board, added that he didn't want to have to lock the school's doors and say "sorry kids, we don't have anymore money." He described the 2001-2001 budget as skeleton, not just bare bones. The Board discussed the ways they will let the public know how important passing the levy is to the school and to the community. They plan to hold a public information meeting on April 30th at the school's multipurpose room.
In other business before the Board, Superintendent Hyde reported on the negotiations with the teachers' union. The contract expires in July, and all parties believe that the discussions have been positive and that final agreements will be in place before the deadline. In addition to Hyde who represents the Administration, Bart Peterson and Mark Williams represent the Board, and Dave Spence and Lisa Pena negotiate for the teachers.
Hyde also described a new discipline procedure that has been instituted in order to reduce the amount of "bullying" behavior at the school. Hyde explained that the old procedure of handing our pink slips was no longer effective and described the new behavioral program based on a "time out room" where students do their work until they can return to the classroom. Parents will receive a notice fully describing the new guidelines.
Kathleen Thompson, second grade teacher, introduced Melissa McCoy who began her student teaching in January. Thompson said that McCoy, who is from Ovando, had provided a real service to the class with her ideas about cooperative learning and fostering learning environments. "We gained from Melissa because she brought us new ideas, and she learned from Mrs. Thompson and the students," said Hyde summarizing the benefits of having Melissa in the classroom this term.
The Board discussed the calendar for the 2001-2002 year and decided to break with the tradition of starting school on the same day that high school students return. This year the elementary school will open the day after Labor Day, Tuesday, September 4th and let out on Friday, June 7th, 2002.
Bart Petersen and Loren Rose announced that they are running to retain their positions on the school board. As of the meeting last Tuesday, no other candidates had declared, so the election in May will only include the levy proposal.
All of the members of the Board were present at the meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for May 8th at 6:00 pm in the Teachers' Conference Room.