Members of the Crook County School District Board earmarked $250,000 for math improvement during a special board meeting Monday while deciding how to spend the unexpected $1.5 million from state government that was added to the budget.
"To me, that is the core unanswered issue in our instructional package right now — why our school underperforms in math," said board member Scott Cooper.
Although exactly how that money will be spent has not been determined, administrators have suggested training sessions, live coaching, and staff meetings and collaboration as ideas on how to improve student math skills.
"This is a problem that our entire state, and our entire country, wrestles with, is how do we fix the math problem because it is a nationwide, statewide problem, everywhere," said Crook County Middle School Principal Kurt Sloper. "Common core totally changed not only the measurement of where students are but how we teach math, the levels of where students are expected to be with their understanding of math."
The next largest chunk of the $1.5 million — $200,000 — was put into a maintenance reserve to fund facilities projects. For example, the football stadium lights need to be replaced, the middle school needs interior paint, and the roofs at the Pioneer Campus need replaced.
Board members agreed that hiring an elementary school counselor was another high priority, allotting $98,000 to hire one who will be shared between the district elementary schools.
A counselor would provide social/emotional training to elementary students in a classroom setting, in small groups, and individually.
"Our kiddos need all the supports that we can muster up for them," said Barnes Butte Elementary School Principal Jim Bates, noting that the district has not employed an elementary school counselor since 2008-09.
Board members set aside $98,000 for a middle school art teacher. Art has only been offered as an elective for sixth-graders in recent years. An afterschool Art Club has drawn many CCMS students, but the advisor recently moved out of district.
"There's a demand out there from our students, and it helps with student engagement," Cooper said of a middle school art class.
An art teacher for the high school will also be hired using Measure 98 funds.
The district will be in need of a human resources director in January. Regional HR Director Jayel Hayden, who is currently shared with the High Desert Education Service District and Sisters School District, will become full-time with the ESD. CCSD allotted $75,000 to fill that position for half a year.
Next, board members put $60,000 toward K-12 career focus, which would provide AVID training for elementary school teachers, possibly an extra duty stipend for an activity coordinator, and funding for field trips and activities.
"It's that next step for us for what we have been working hard to create, that college and career mindset," Bates said of the Advancement Via Individual Determination college-readiness program. "It's a culture builder. It's a skill builder."
The remaining $719,000 was designated to be transferred to the capital reserve fund for future decisions.
The board considered setting money aside for future building needs as the elementary schools approach capacity but were not ready to commit to any specific plan.
"Placing the money in a reserve fund gives them the flexibility to make decisions in the future," explained CCSD Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan.
Because the final budget for the Oregon State School Fund came in higher than expected at $8.2 billion, the district not only has an extra $1.5 million to spend for the 2017-18 school year, but the district will receive an additional $1.5 million for the 2018-19 school year.
After adopting the 2017-18 budget, the school district learned about the extra $1.5 million coming its way, so the board will be asked to adopt the supplemental budget during the Aug. 14 regular board meeting. The total school district budget will increase to $52.328 million.
"It's rare that a school district is faced with decisions about how to spend extra money," Logan said. "It's a good problem to have but requires caution and forethought."