Budget difficulties discussed by BOE

By Scott Appleton - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Jan. 25, 2011
The Griswold Board of Education reviewed proposed school budgets.
The Griswold Board of Education reviewed proposed school budgets at this week’s meeting. Photos by Scott Appleton.

On Monday, Jan. 24, the Griswold Board of Education met to review and discuss the proposed budgets for the Griswold elementary, middle, and high schools. This year is fiscally difficult for all departments, and that was reflected in the meeting.
The board and administration said that Griswold Elementary School – now in the process of preparing to move into its new building – is in need of improvement. The goals  there include increasing the reading proficiency of the students at all levels by at least 10 percent annually. Illiteracy among the younger generations in the United States is at a high level, with some students not reaching a capable reading level by the time they go to high school. In contrast to this, the school is looking to increase the students’ math proficiency by 5 percent annually. In both of these areas, staff and board members feel they are making good progress.
In April of this year, kindergarten through grade three will move into the new building. Shortly afterward, fourth-graders will follow. The school’s notable costs for this year are $50,785 for language arts and reading materials and supplies. More than $42,000 of that money was used to replace “Reading Street” materials. A few members of the board asked for an explanation, to determine if cuts could be made and if those materials could be copied, or otherwise cheaply reproduced. However, it was stated that such a solution would infringe upon copyright law.
The elementary school moved the fifth graders to the middle school last year, and this was the only budgetary cut of note for that school.
Issues regarding the middle school that were discussed at the meeting included the difficulties related to the costs of reading programs. Some of those materials can be photocopied for use by new classes, to save money, but others cannot be, again due to copyright concerns. The school is now focusing on data analysis for all students to determine where they stand on an academic level, and to help them determine where and how to improve.
A long discussion among the board members ensued when a proposal was made to eliminate one middle school teaching position and replace it with another. It was proposed that a global language teacher be instated for $50,000. To offset the cost of this proposed position, it was proposed that a fifth-grade teaching position be eliminated, which would save the school the same $50,000. It was emphasized that this is not an ideal budget year, but the board members saw no way around this. They proposed increasing class sizes so as to cut out a fifth-grade teacher. Currently, there are around 160 fifth-grade students.
Amidst these discussions, some members of the board brought up concerns pertaining to the school music budgets, which are high for each school. The annual musical is a particularly large expense. The schools are looking at possible ways to streamline or consolidate some “campus” services to a central office. The board is keen to stay within and, indeed, to tighten the budget. Everything from maintenance to mail was discussed as a possible source of budget cuts. The impression many on the board expressed was that the schools need to keep up with modernization and that they are a bit behind in that regard.
The board members did not have as many major issues to discuss regarding Griswold High School. They looked more into the coming years, saying that new student testing requirements may, or probably will, require more staff. They are also working on initiatives that give middle school students opportunities to examine all the studies that are available at GHS. The school has sent some high school students to the middle school to speak to the younger students about the things they are studying, hoping to instill vision in the students for what they can accomplish with their futures, as well as a taste of the culture at GHS.
The board intently looked over the proposed budgets, and the difficulties of the year ahead were acknowledged.

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