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News from the Superintendent: March 17, 2009
March 16, 2009
Dear APS employees,
Many of you have commented recently on our plan to shift APS from site- to district-based budgeting. The plan has received quite a bit of support from employees who recognize it as fair, transparent and equitable. Others have raised legitimate concerns about such issues as adequate staffing at school sites, funding for technology teachers and meeting the unique needs of students. I’d like to take a few minutes to address some of these concerns as we prepare to deliver the 2009-2010 budgets to schools.
It’s natural for individuals to feel a bit nervous when they hear that APS is changing the way it manages its resources. I want to assure everyone that the new budgeting process won’t change school staffing all that much in 2009-2010. We are not planning layoffs, nor are we anticipating larger class sizes.
The budgeting process might look a little different on paper, but our goal remains the same: to be fiscally responsible while meeting the needs of all of our students.
Librarians, Counselors and PE Teachers at the Elementary Schools
A paragraph in the letter sent out last week may have been a little unclear about plans for equitable staffing at elementary schools. The new district-based budget does provide funding for librarians, counselors and PE teachers at all elementary schools. The number of students at a school determines whether these professionals work at the site part- or full-time or if a second professional is needed to accommodate students.
Art and Music at the Elementary Schools
That same paragraph may have confused our intentions for art and music education at elementary schools. Though I would like to see both art and music offered each year at the primary level, budgetary constraints this year will force us to continue to rotate between music and art as we have for years. These teachers will still be managed by the district, as will instructional coaches and nurses.
The issue that most concerned those who contacted me was the fact that the new budget plan does not designate funding for technology teachers. Let me assure you there are ways for schools to fund this position if they feel it is critical to meeting the needs of students. One option would be to use school discretionary funds.
Every school will receive discretionary funds that will be allocated by the district based on three factors: the number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, mobility rates and English language learners. Schools with larger at-risk populations will have extra funding to support student needs. How these funds are used will be determined by the school’s principal and Instructional Council. The money can be used to pay for additional positions or to cover operating expenses.
Schools also have the option of seeking waivers from the district if they need to make staffing shifts. For example, an elementary school might now have a librarian assistant who is meeting the needs of students. That school may request a district waiver, which will be reviewed by the human resources and finance departments and the appropriate associate superintendent. Principals will soon learn more about the waiver process.
I’ve heard school employees worry aloud about running out of office supplies or even toilet paper halfway through the school year. That shouldn’t happen because every school will receive operational funds based on its student population. These amounts were determined based on totals spent per student at each level over the past couple of years.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes between this year and next is that the district will have a contingency fund to help cover unanticipated costs, compliance issues and other special requests. As I’ve mentioned before, we were able to find about $3 million in savings as we shifted to district-based management. That money will be set aside and budgeted in a contingency fund.
Without a contingency fund, unexpected expenses often must be paid for with resources from other accounts. With foresight and planning, we should be able to prevent this from happening in the coming school year.
Funding from Other Sources
I want to re-emphasize that programs funded by other sources such as grants, Title I, Special Education or Bilingual Education will not be affected by the new district-based funding plan.
Chorus and Elective Teachers
I did receive a few e-mails asking why high schools are budgeted for orchestra and band teachers, but not chorus teachers. Like elementary school art and music teachers, middle and high school band and orchestra teachers are managed by the district and often divide their time among two or more schools. Middle and high school chorus, art, drama and other elective classes are offered based on site demand. So if a middle school has 150 students sign up for chorus, the school can hire a full-time chorus teacher. However, if only 30 students sign up for the class, the chorus teacher also will be expected to teach another subject.
Changes Will Be Made
Remember that budgeting is fluid. District and school administrators understand that adjustments will have to be made based on student populations, scheduling requirements and other demands. We will be working with schools over the next few months to make sure all needs are met, programs are funded and learning is able to continue.
I appreciate all the input I’ve received on the new budget plan and encourage you to continue to share suggestions and concerns. You can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Winston Brooks, Superintendent
Albuquerque Public Schools