Kyrene is a nationally recognized, award-winning and sought-after school district in Arizona. As mentioned in my past articles, the state budget situation this year has placed a stress on Kyrene finances. As a result of this, we are forced to consider changing programs and services, and this is not easily done.
Changing the way we provide education to the children of Kyrene is challenging, complicated and emotional. However, because we have talented and passionate employees at all levels, we're committed to searching for ways to continue providing a quality educational experience for every child.
One thing to keep in mind is that the need for budget changes is driven by low funding levels for education in Arizona.
Now, on top of low funding levels, we have had further reductions totaling a loss of $12 million in just three years. In anticipation of this, our goal has been to manage "internal variables" such as enrollment, health care costs and budget strategies that pre-pay expenses and build up a healthy reserve account.
These efforts have been successful and are preventing greater impacts to programs and services that could have occurred otherwise.
The overall strategy for making reductions is to reduce spending across all areas and not to eliminate or severely impact any one area. We designed an inclusive process for developing these recommendations and consulted with those in the district that have expertise about the program areas that could be changed.
While we pride ourselves on transparency, inclusiveness and comprehensive communication systems, there are members of the staff and community expressing surprise and discomfort about some of the ideas being discussed.
A great organization has to pay attention to this feedback and not become defensive about it.
As superintendent it is my intention to help:
• Disseminate information that people want/need as soon as possible.
• Make sure everyone has an opportunity to express their point of view.
• Move forward with decisions that have to be made before the end of the school year.
• Design future processes that will avoid perceptions of urgent or rushed considerations that will provide ample and varied opportunities for input.
In order to accomplish the first three goals listed above, a Governing Board Study Session in conjunction with the K-8 Program Committee was held May 3. Notification of this meeting was emailed to our community and it focused primarily on a proposal that would increase efficiencies in elementary special area scheduling (this includes art, music, PE and library).
In addition, our community has the following opportunities online at www.kyrene.org:
• Provide feedback electronically through this link.
• Videos of all governing board meetings and study sessions at this link.
• Video Q&A sessions with me at this link.
Meetings are being held at all 25 school sites with parent leaders, interested community members and staff.
These sessions help develop understanding about the budget realities we face and reductions that are being considered, and provide a chance for attendees to ask questions and give feedback.
Other opportunities for community and staff to participate in the discussion are:
• May 10, Governing Board Study Session, District Office, 8700 S. Kyrene Road, from 6 to 7 p.m.
• May 12, Community Budget Forum, Centennial Middle School, 13808 S. 36th St., from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
At these events, discussion of other proposed budget reductions will take place. Our community and staff desire opportunities to learn about efforts under way to balance the budget and to express opinions and suggest ideas.
We are doing everything possible to make sure this happens.
• Dr. David Schauer is superintendent of the Kyrene School District.