2014-15 Budget Message

2014-15 Budget Message

Oregon’s budget downturn from 2008 to 2013 has been a challenging time for Gladstone Schools, with reduced per-student funding resulting in the elimination of school days and decreased staffing.

These difficult decisions were negotiated with the district’s employee groups, who made substantial sacrifices in support of students. This spirit of collaboration enabled the district to maintain student programs that were lost in other districts.

  • The Gladstone Center for Children & Families established full-day kindergarten and added Learning Zones.
  • John Wetten Elementary continued music, physical education, art, technology, and counseling.
  • Kraxberger Middle School was able to continue Outdoor School, band, physical education, and after school activities.
  • Gladstone High continued to add advanced college credit and AP courses, while increasing Saturday School days.

Fortunately, the state budget picture is brightening, thanks to a gradually improving economy. We anticipate that for the next biennium, state school funding will increase from $6.65 billion to nearly $7.4 billion.

The state’s shift in the method of calculating low-income students (who receive added per-student weighting) will benefit Gladstone, increasing district funding by approximately $100,000. Gladstone’s continuing increase in enrolled students is a significant factor in next year’s budget, bringing added funds to the district that enable us to sustain and strengthen education programs.

With the economy beginning to recover, Gladstone schools are moving forward to rebuild and renew. This winter, the district launched a community involvement initiative to gather input on how best to invest our budget in the coming school year. Nearly 500 people participated, including 75 parent focus group attendees, more than 300 parent survey respondents, and 46% of employees. Community priorities include:

More adults in our schools: This will slightly reduce class sizes, provide more support for students, and balance staff workloads.
More time to learn: Adding school and workdays will boost student learning and staff preparation for systemic changes.
 More course options: This gives secondary students more opportunities for career-technical learning and college preparation.
 Lower costs to families: This will ease the burden on families struggling to make ends meet.
 Support for the social/emotional needs of kids: Students learn better when lives are stabilized and basic needs are met.
 Technology improvements: This prepares students for 21st century careers, engages students, and boosts staff efficiency.

In response to community input, Gladstone Schools is planning a number of changes for the 2014-15 school year.

Major Changes

Staffing increases for the 2014-15 school year include an additional 8 licensed FTE over what was budgeted for 2013-14.This will help take the pressure off staff, who shouldered a heavy load for the past five years.

Class sizes will decrease. Because of added staffing, average class sizes will be slightly reduced, with most class sizes around 29 for elementary students, 32 for middle school students, and 32 for high school students. While a few classes will be larger, most classes will see an improvement over recent years, a trend we hope to continue.

2014-15 Targeted Class Sizes

•  Gladstone Center for Children and Families (Kindergarten)                  28-32
•  John Wetten Elementary (Grades 1 – 5)                                                 28-32
•  Kraxberger Middle School (Grades 6-8)                                                30-36
•  Gladstone High School (Grades 9-12)                                                   30-36

The number of school days will again increase, with only four Reduction Days remaining in 2014-15. Two of these are on holidays. This means more learning time for students, and more paid workdays for staff.

Student fees will be reduced. During the downturn – a time of hardship for families as well as schools – we asked families to step up and pay more for school fees. Now, as district funding improves, we want to shift this burden off families and ensure that cost is not a barrier to elective access.

Academic Initiatives
Despite five hard years, Gladstone Schools has continued to make substantial progress in student learning. Our fifth graders have dramatically improved their progress in math and reading, demonstrating phenomenal individual growth. At Gladstone High School, student scores for reading, science, and math are all 10 percent above the state average. The graduation rate at Gladstone High improved 15% last year, and is now among the best in Oregon.

Significant challenges lie ahead, as our schools raise the bar for students using the rigorous Common Core State Standards, shift to Smarter Balanced state testing, and require graduating seniors to demonstrate proficiency in Essential Skills: reading, writing, and math.

To help students achieve at a higher level, two years ago, we began with the purchase of new mathematics books for grades 2 through 12. This year, a district team worked hard to make a recommendation for compatible math curriculum for grades K-1, and English Language Arts curriculum for grades K-12. Next fall, students will have new English language arts textbooks for grades K-5. The anticipated cost of the new elementary math and language arts curriculum for 2014-15 is approximately $200,000.

In the next two years, the district anticipates selection of new textbooks for English language arts in grades 6 to 12, as well as new books for science and social studies. We will budget $125,000 per year for this going forward.

Given the transition to Common Core State Standards, new curriculum, proficiency-based assessment, and Smarter Balanced testing, additional professional development time will be needed. The district has planned an additional six hours of professional development time for teachers next year.

Factors influencing the budget:

Enrollment
Enrollment in Gladstone schools continues to increase, as it has for the past 5 years. This has resulted in added funding from the state (allocated on a weighted, per-student basis), ensuring that our kindergartens are at full capacity, and that we can continue to add new programs and hire staff to meet student needs.

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 (projected)
Gladstone Center for Children & Families 133 127 181 175 180
John Wetten Elementary 687 688 705 741 802
Kraxberger Middle School 541 546 514 507 505
Gladstone High School 686 710 693 702 749
Alternative Placements 29 27 21 20 18
Total 2076 2098 2114 2145 2254 

Partnerships
Gladstone Schools continues to rely on the support of business, foundation, and community partners to fund programs supporting Gladstone students. This enables us to pursue innovative efforts even when state funding is inadequate. A number of these projects support the social/emotional needs of students, stabilizing families, and allowing students to move past the challenges in their lives to better focus on classroom learning. The Gladstone Education Foundation continues to make a significant contribution to this effort.

In the past three years, grant funds have provided more than $1.2 millionin services to support Gladstone Students. This includes:

• $510,000 to support LifeWorks counseling programs in our schools.
• $180,000 to support the Prevent Net after school program at Kraxberger Middle School.
• $180,000 from Care Oregon to support partnership development and trauma-informed education practices
• $110,000 from Oregon Community Foundation, United Way, Clackamas County, and the Schnitzer Care Foundation to support the Family Resource Coordinator at the GCCF.
• $75,000 to support outreach and engagement for the district’s Latino Families.
• $45,000 from the Oregon Education Association to support a district wide wellness initiative.
• $35,200 from the Gray Family Foundation for Outdoor School & Environmental Excursions

Food Service
The district’s food service program continues to break even, funded by a combination of user fees, grants, and federal funding for the Free and Reduced-Price meal program. Our school cafeterias are the largest restaurants in town, serving 1,500 nutritious breakfasts and lunches each school day at an affordable price.

Health Insurance
Health Insurance costs continue to rise. Thanks to employee group collaboration on this issue, the district has provided different health insurance options that have allowed employees to invest their share of the savings in Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, or to receive it as salary. The district was able to invest its share of the savings to restore school days and employee positions.

What lies ahead?

Technology
In response to community interest and the need of students and staff, the district plans to analyze current technology use and future needs in all schools during the 2014-15 school year. Staff and parent input will be a part of this initiative.

Leadership Transitions
Given anticipated staff retirements in some key leadership roles, the transition of senior district leaders is an issue the district expects in the years ahead.

“A problem is a chance to do your best.” — Duke Ellington

The past five years have been a tremendous challenge for every Oregon school district. However, through these hard times, the Gladstone District has pulled together, demonstrating teamwork, resilience, and innovation in continuing to move education forward for our students.

Graduation rates have increased. College credit opportunities have increased. New education and social service programs have launched, from proficiency-based grading, full-day kindergarten, and trauma-informed practice to the new Clothes Closet, and the Family Resource Coordinator program. Students have made tremendous individual progress, and we anticipate that this year’s test scores will reflect dramatic improvement for those who struggle the most.

I am proud and grateful that Gladstone continues to be recognized for education innovation and leadership, both in Oregon, and nationally. As the tide of Oregon’s economy begins to turn, I am confident that the added staffing and school days of better times will amplify the momentum and success of our district team, so every student benefits.