DALLAS — The Dallas School District kicked off its budget process by asking those working in classrooms and front offices what they believe should be the spending priorities.

The answer: Smaller class sizes, more training for teachers, and more help with student mental health and behavior issues. 

Steve Martinelli, Whitworth Elementary School principal, helped lead the all-district staff meeting held Thursday at Dallas High School. He said the objective wasn’t to have staff members worry about dollars amounts, but what they needed to be successful.

“It’s more about the big picture. What are our priorities?,” he said. “What are the most important things when we start to think about budget planning moving forward?”

Superintendent Michelle Johnstone said the current K-12 funding proposals, Gov. Kate Brown’s budget and the Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee budget would mean cuts of $395,462 and $836,945, respectively. She said a group of legislatures introduced a bill that would provide an additional $2 billion to schools.That would allow Dallas to add about $4 million to its budget.

“We had a group of legislators go around our state and ask, what do you guys need the most of? They are going to roll out tonight (Thursday), in a press conference, their priorities and how the budget ties to it with additional revenue,” Johnstone said. “That’s what really needs to happen in our state we’ve got define additional revenue to come in and be tagged solely for K-12 education.”

At Thursday’s meeting in Dallas, staff members were broken in groups of teachers from different school, classified staff and administrators. Martinelli said the purpose of that was to provide a big-picture perspective.

DHS Principal Steve Spencer said even before adding teachers, help with social-emotion learning and student behavior was becoming the first priority at every level.

“Being in the elementary school, being here (at the high school), hearing the middle school struggles, that social-emotional support, and behavior support and mental health, that is quickly becoming something that needs to be the foundation,” he said. “Then we put teaching on top of that.”

Others said that teachers need to learn a different way of teaching that holds to attention of students who have grown up in an age where they are using electronic devices at a young age.

Roger Schafer, DHS social studies teacher, said he’s noticed a marked difference in student engagement when he incorporates technology into his lessons.

Craig Button, Whitworth physical education teacher, said at his school, which teaches fourth- and fifth-graders, needs more counselors.

“At our building, I would like to see a counselor who able to actually meet with groups of kids and talk with kids. I would like to see then somebody who’s teaching classrooms full of kids different ways of being respectful. We need to have those steps in place,” he said. “Right now, we have someone who is trying to do both. She’s wonderful, but there’s just no way you can do both.”

Johnstone said administrators will take the results of Thursday’s discussion into consideration not only for next year’s budget, but for future years as well.

The bill introduced Thursday, called The Student Success Act, puts emphasis on providing resources to reduce class sizes, restore career-technical education and art and music programs, and providing for students’ mental and behavioral health needs.

“I have to tell you I’m pretty excited about the proposal and the revenue that is proposed to come in. I’m hoping that we are going to get substantially more than the governor’s proposed budget,” Johnstone said. “That could make a big dent in what we are trying to do and the priorities that we’ve got here.”

At Thursday’s meeting in Dallas, staff members were broken in groups of teachers from different school, classified staff and administrators. Martinelli said the purpose of that was to provide a big-picture perspective.

DHS Principal Steve Spencer said even before adding teachers, help with social-emotion learning and student behavior was becoming the first priority at every level.

“Being in the elementary school, being here (at the high school), hearing the middle school struggles, that social-emotional support, and behavior support and mental health, that is quickly becoming something that needs to be the foundation,” he said. “Then we put teaching on top of that.”

Others said that teachers need to learn a different way of teaching that holds to attention of students who have grown up in an age where they are using electronic devices at a young age.

Roger Schafer, DHS social studies teacher, said he’s noticed a marked difference in student engagement when he incorporates technology into his lessons.

Craig Button, Whitworth physical education teacher, said at his school, which teaches fourth- and fifth-graders, needs more counselors.

“At our building, I would like to see a counselor who able to actually meet with groups of kids and talk with kids. I would like to see then somebody who’s teaching classrooms full of kids different ways of being respectful. We need to have those steps in place,” he said. “Right now, we have someone who is trying to do both. She’s wonderful, but there’s just no way you can do both.”

Johnstone said administrators will take the results of Thursday’s discussion into consideration not only for next year’s budget, but for future years as well.

The bill introduced Thursday, called The Student Success Act, puts emphasis on providing resources to reduce class sizes, restore career-technical education and art and music programs, and providing for students’ mental and behavioral health needs.

“I have to tell you I’m pretty excited about the proposal and the revenue that is proposed to come in. I’m hoping that we are going to get substantially more than the governor’s proposed budget,” Johnstone said. “That could make a big dent in what we are trying to do and the priorities that we’ve got here.”

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