Officially, I started with GPS on July 1st but my work here started shortly after the Board of Education meeting on March 29th. During this time, I’ve been identifying areas where this community places the greatest value and how it relates to the school district. What I’ve found and continue to find along the way, I will talk about in the coming months of this column.
Today I want to talk about some changes to the school district. A few years ago, the administration made some difficult decisions aimed at providing financial stability for the future. Some of those decisions touched students and families more than others but all decisions contributed to a district that is financially stable in the short term as we look to the coming school year. Many of you noticed the recent announcement restoring some transportation cuts for our in-town students. Additionally, we have added two counselors for our elementary students and restored staffing levels so no building library will be closed during the school day. Finally, I’m very excited at the response to our inter-generational pre-K class offered at the Willow Creek Nursing Facility. Enid and Jenks are two communities that have had remarkable success with this concept. We had 36 students request the all day class format but unfortunately we could only accommodate 20 students through a random drawing.
With regard to the financial picture of the school district, we had been told by the legislature to expect a flat state budget. As a district, we prepared for no additional state aid and a potential reduction of federal funds. Unfortunately, the State Department of Education made the decision to reduce what the legislature appropriated to individual districts in order to have more start-up funds for charter schools. We received notice of this change in mid-June which is well past the deadline for our budgeting process. This will reduce our available funds by approximately $140,000. Despite this cut, we are committed to the restored services which touch students the most.
I hope everyone has been enjoying the Olympic Games. As I watch the athletes compete, I’m especially drawn to the coverage given to the Olympians who are on their second or third set of games. These athletes have literally grown up as Olympians with only two or three tests to evaluate the effectiveness of their many hours of hard work and training. This bears a striking similarity to education in the 21st century as we evaluate many years of learning and comprehension with scores generated by a battery of tests. Regardless of the outcome, those of us who only view the conclusion have little comprehension of the work leading up to the final evaluation.
Finally, I want to thank each of you who have made my family feel so welcome as we have become part of the Guthrie community. School starts on August 17th, please drive carefully and observe the school speed zones.