Here is a Letter to the Editor for the May 2, 2019 edition of the Chewelah Independent from Chewelah Superintendent Rich McFarland talking about the latest budget issues the school district is facing.
Dear Chewelah Community,
As most of you know, this past year the legislature enacted significant changes to the way school districts are funded. These changes have created widespread financial uncertainty and an environment of very difficult bargaining throughout last Summer and Fall across the State. Yes, more dollars were put into the education system, but it was done with such lack of clarity and parameters that school boards and administration were placed across the table from employee groups in situations that damaged relationships. These are the relationships that are needed to work through the continued uncertainty of school funding. In the Fall, school districts were faced with how to fairly and equitably provide well deserved salary increases that are sustainable, now districts are faced with how to reduce expenditures with the least impact to students and staff. The news regarding proposed reductions in Spokane, Mead and across the state are alarming and heartbreaking. Unfortunately, Chewelah has not been spared and will also need to make additional reductions for the next school year. I remain hopeful that some relief will be found through our State Legislature, but the legal requirements for moving forward with reductions require the District to act prior to May 15.
The District and CEA are working together and signed an MOU today to extend the retirement bonus deadline from December 31 to May 15, 2019. Certificated staff that have or may be considering retirement now have a bit more time and any additional retirements will help all of us maintain a sustainable school system.
The administrative team and the business office staff continue to work early and late to comb through both our revenue and our expenditures. We are working to identify as much flexibility in both basic education funds and categorical funds. The focus has been to find as many possibilities as we can to reduce the impact on staff and students. As we continue to work through this challenge, we are doing our best to keep the following priorities forefront in our thinking:
1. Maintain learning experiences for all students
2. Continue focus on academic improvement
3. Reduce programs before eliminating
4. Preserve our investment in staff and facilities
Additional information on our financial status is on our website and more will be provided in the coming weeks. It is important to us all that we communicate openly and honestly throughout this process. We have a great school district, great staff and wonderful students. The school system in Washington has been put in a whirl, but I am confident that in a couple of years, this too will be behind us and our focus can be on student learning and not finances.