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Superintendent's News

Posted: March 3, 2023

A Brighter Outlook as APS Begins Building its Budget for Upcoming School Year

Actions taken last year leave district in much better financial situation

Students at Osuna Elementary School.

Students at Osuna Elementary School.

It’s March and the winds are howling, which can only mean one thing at APS: It’s budget time. I’m sure many of you just flinched, but our situation is nowhere near as dire as it was a year ago.

Last year we went through a very traumatic experience of having to cut hundreds of positions because we were in such a terrible place with our budget. We worked hard to minimize the disruption by targeting positions that were vacant, and, when we had no choice, we shifted employees to other schools and departments and avoided full-scale layoffs.

We got through it, and the good news is that this year the numbers are nowhere near as bad and we won’t have to suffer through the pain and misery that hung over last year’s budget cycle.

That’s not to say we’ll be spared tough choices.

We are still dealing with declining enrollment, and there will be some schools and departments impacted because of that and other circumstances. But it will be much more on a case-by-case basis rather than the massive cuts we faced last year.

We’re just at the beginning of the budgeting process, but it should be a lot easier and a lot calmer. It will also be a little different from the process we’re used to.

The Board of Education has tasked us with moving toward school-based budgeting. When fully implemented, this new system will provide more autonomy and flexibility to principals and others at the school level. Each school will get a pot of money based on enrollment and the type of students they have. Principals, working with their school communities and focused on student outcomes, would then decide how best to use that money.

We think it’s going to be about a three-to-five-year process. We’re already working with a company to institute this system at APS.

For this year, principals who make changes will need to explain whether the change will affect the four five-year goals the board has adopted. As you know, two of the four goals aim to boost reading and math proficiency rates for at-risk subgroups covered by the Yazzie-Martinez ruling and Black students. In order to ensure that we’re doing everything in our power to achieve those goals, the board will be asking us to explain the impact on the students whose outcomes we’re trying to improve. It’s all part of the larger effort to ensure that we’re devoting the resources needed to meet our goals and dramatically improve all student outcomes.

There’s a lot happening this time of year, and it’s easy to get lost in all the work. But we should make sure that we’re taking the time to reflect on where we were at the beginning of this school year, where we are now and where we’re going, and to celebrate our wins. Spring is on the horizon as we make that big push into proms and spring flings and all the little festivals and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, graduation. I’m always excited to get to this time of year.

Until next week!