SJISD Superintendent’s Letter to the Community
May 13, 2019
Dear Fabulous Community Members,
It is so nice to see that spring has finally arrived with warmer weather and flowers blooming. In the schools, lots of blooming has been happening, too. To start, our arts programs both Band and Fine Arts have had stellar accomplishments. Our Art students placed four of the eight winning entrants in the Northwest ESD regional competition and two of eight at the State level competition. Band programs earned Superior ratings in their concert competitions. Although the students created these wins, special kudos must go out to their teachers, Andy Anderson and Cart Nelsen for the inspiring instruction and mentorship that led both groups to such high honors. Truly amazing work from our small high school!
Our student athletes have continued to rock their respective sports. Our girls soccer team and boys basketball both took league championships and our football team was one of the two co-league champions. Both fast pitch and baseball won league titles as did our golf team, and wrestling sent two athletes to the state tournament. Great coaching and strong athletic talent made all of these teams winners!
Academically, our students continue to do well. Our mid-year assessments have proven strong, so we are hopeful that the end of the year state assessments students are currently taking will prove strong as well. Our junior class community projects continue to amaze us all as these students commit their energies and minds to the betterment of our island. If you have a chance, check out the new wheelchair accessible decking at Jackson Beach….courtesy of student ideas and hard work.
Our seniors continue to amaze us with the list of colleges and universities where they have been accepted for next year…here is a partial list: Western Washington University, Tufts University, University of Washington, Oregon State University, Cal State Monterrey Bay, Husson University, Carleton College, Occidental College, Seton Hall University, Baylor University, University of San Diego, Pacific Lutheran University, Chapman University, University of Colorado, Evergreen College, Bellingham Technical College, Gonzaga University, Skagit Valley College, University of Portland, Pepperdine University, University of Richmond, Marquette University…. And more….GO SENIORS!!!!!
Our learning in instructional technology has staff using technology in the classroom for the creation of new tasks that were previously inconceivable as part of classroom learning. It is truly exciting to see teachers combine their content knowledge and teaching strategies with technology tools that allow student to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways. Our Digital Citizenship lessons guide students K-12 to think critically about the information they consume, create and publish. Ultimately, our students are learning, engaging and working collaboratively in technology-rich environments that mirror the world they will enter after graduation.
Griffin Bay School continues to find ways to reach more of our students by adding additional online courses for students K-12. K-2 students can now take full day courses online with our learning partner Edgenuity and fulltime or part-time courses with Odysseyware and Odysseyware Academy for students grades 3-12. We are also awaiting approval for our Griffin Bay Open Doors Program which will serve students between the ages of 16-21 who have left school and would like to get their high school diploma or GED. We are thrilled to find more alternative ways to serve the educational needs of our students and community.
Artistically, athletically and academically our students are in full bloom and scoring high!
Unfortunately, our state legislators have done much to cast a shadow on all this good work. Despite the way it has been portrayed in much of the press after the close of the legislative session, the legislators have actually failed to help our district, all other Salish Sea island districts, and twenty-five other districts across the state to receive all of the money that our voter approved levies should guarantee. The two-year state budget just passed, allowed Seattle School District to collect all of their levy money, but fell quite short in supporting small school districts. Small schools take more money per students to educate because we lack the economies of scale, which means that it costs more to educate students in small districts. It is absurd that school districts with 40,000 students (like Seattle School District with huge economies of scale) get to collect $3000 per student, while districts like ours, under a thousand students, can only collect $2500 with our levy funds. Here is a link to an article form the Seattle Times that shares more information. I encourage each of you to dig deeper in this and fact find. https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/washington-lawmakers-made-11th-hour-changes-to-school-levy-policy-but-who-benefits/
Although there were great promises from legislators to do much more to fully fund Special Education mandates, the increases provided were modest at best. Currently, our district has had to reach into general education funding by over $500,000 to meet our mandates and the increases provided by the State are currently looking to be about $30,000 only.
The state has added other cost mandates in the form of SEBB (State Employee Benefit Board) requirements that will provide all part-time employees with over three and a half hours of work per day with full medical benefits. Although we are happy that more folks receive full medical care, this will cost our district $275,000 each year for the foreseeable future.
To ensure a balanced budget with no deficit spending and providing a strong end-fund balance, our district has this year made cuts amounting to about $750,000 and for now will not be planning any additional cuts or program reductions for next year, despite the “legislative gift” of a $300,000 deficit we didn’t see coming. What this means is that next year we will be anticipating more and deeper cuts if not enough pressure is placed on legislators to lift the levy cap on all districts and to better fund special education. I know that I, for one, will be busy meeting with our legislators and hopefully helping them realize the impact on our school district of this legislative budget. Hope you will too!
For now, we will celebrate the good work of our staff and students by enjoying these spring days, which will lead to the end of a great school year. Go CLASS of 2019!!
Until the start of our 2019-2020 school year,