Guest Column/ Reg McShane and Rick Levak

Managing school resources a challenge

Managing School Resources

Reg McShane, Superintendent

Rick Levak, Board Chairman

Amity School District 4J

Amity School District is in the early stages of crafting its 2006-2007 budget. Our Board, Administrators, and Staff work closely to build a budget focused on our number one priority: what's best for our students?"

We strive to maintain an open process where everyone's concerns are considered. We use board, administrator, staff, and budget committee meetings, budget work-sessions, and district newsletters as means of communicating information and receiving input.

This column is to address two questions that are frequently asked during the budget process and to share examples of how the Amity District continues to work at maximizing the return on available resources.

The first question is: "Why can't school officials and educators in general make the connection between difficult economic times and limited resources for schools?"

Although we are committed to giving our students the best possible education and to advocating for their best interest we are acutely aware of the relationship between economic conditions and available resources.

We work to offset diminished funding by always looking for new economies in the way we purchase and use materials and services. We pay special attention to maintenance and repair of our machinery and facilities to assure their extended service. When unavoidable, we make staff reductions, tighten extra-curricular budgets and cut programs. As a last resort we even cut school days.

We are blessed with a flexible staff that recognize and empathize with the hardships associated with difficult economic times and continue to work hard to balance what is best for kids with the limited resources available. As a parent with kids in Amity schools, I applaud the work staff is doing for children.

The second question is: "Why does it cost so much more to educate a student today than it did when I was in school?"

We've had to answer this question for my parents. They supports schools, however, on a fixed income, they want to know that their dollars are being spent wisely. The answer is quite simple. The requirements of schools today have changed over the years, and these changes come with a cost.

A good example would be technology. In order for students to be prepared for society today, we must have adequate technology and support in our schools. Another example would be special education. We have an obligation to meet the special needs of students. Doing so requires additional staffing and support.

Half-day kindergarten is now mandatory. Also, our schools today need a level of security far beyond what was prudent 20 years ago, and we are committed to it.

The list of services and curriculum that schools are required to provide now that weren't available and/or required when I was in school is too long to list here. Fortunately, most of them address real needs of 21st Century students. Unfortunately, each one raises the cost of educating that student!

Our schools are committed to leveraging resources for the benefit of students. What great work our PTA, Booster Club, Amity Education Foundation, and other community organizations are doing to provide funds for enrichment programs, scholarships, and other activities where District funds fall short.

Our Artist-in-Residence program utilizes local professional artists to deliver quality instruction at an affordable cost. We are also working with local school districts to find ways to share resources.

In closing, we want to emphasize the importance of volunteers in our schools. You are the resource that fills the gap left by budget shortfalls. We thank all of you in your local districts for making the most important contribution of all, your time and energy.

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