Welcome Back

(Note: This letter was sent to all staff on August 29th as part of our Welcome Back activities.)

Greetings!

Welcome back. I hope you’ve had a restful summer, enjoyed time with family and friends, and like me, are looking forward to a new school year.

Although I’m no longer in the classroom full-time, I can’t help but feel that special energy that comes with the first days back to school. It’s hectic, but upbeat. There’s nothing quite like it, and it sets the tone for a very good year.

This will be my second year as Superintendent of Creswell School District, and I’m often asked for observations about the schools and community, and more important, for my expectations of the coming year.

Here is my most important observation:  This school district is good and getting better all the time.

When I say this, I sometimes get a raised eyebrow or a look of confusion. It seems that the challenging financial situation of our state and our schools has convinced many people that a downward trend is inevitable. None of us know what the economics will be next year or the year after, but I absolutely do not believe that the education we are providing our students is destined to deteriorate. In fact, it will diminish only if we let it.

The level of parent and community support, and the commitment I see from you – our staff – tells me that we will succeed. I am confident that regardless of the financial picture, we will be able to prioritize and find new ways to ensure our students the high quality education they need in order to be prepared for the future they choose.

Money plays a big part in schools, but there are many other factors. Here in Creswell, I’ve observed a refreshing openness to finding solutions and to making changes that will deliver results that are good for Creswell students. I’ve witnessed a level of dedication to students that is unusual, and I see an entire community standing close, eager to help.

This is how I know we are positioned for success and for progress. Here are just a few examples of what we were able to accomplish last year, thanks in large part to you:

Improved achievement at all schools. The initiatives in our schools and dedication of our staff are positively impacting student achievement.

Oregon developed a new accountability system this summer that uses multiple measures to rate schools. For high schools, these measures include academic achievement, academic growth, and graduation rates. For elementary and middle schools, the first two measures are used. Schools receive an overall rating based on how well they are doing in each of these areas.

All three of our Creswell schools received a preliminary overall rating of Level 4 (Level 1 — the worst performers — to Level 5, the best performers). A more detailed review shows that we are outperforming many of our neighboring schools. This is directly attributable to you and our hard-working students.

Maintained a high school athletics and activities program. Please join me in thanking the high school coaches and advisors for their unprecedented support:  All of our CHS coaches and advisors were volunteers last year. Their commitment of time and energy made it possible for high school students to pursue their interests and passions. Although this arrangement was not ideal, it was successful and enabled us to keep other programs intact.

Increased private financial support. The Music Boosters, CHS Athletic Boosters, and Creswell Education Foundation are energized and preparing more intentional approaches this year that will directly support our students, teachers, and programs. We are fortunate to have this great group of volunteers and the support of those who contribute to these funds.

These are just a few examples of the many ways we are working hard to ensure our students get what they need from the school experience. There are many more examples, both small and large. I encourage you to regularly visit our District website – www.creswell.k12.or.us – if you’d like to get more regular updates about our schools.

With that, please accept my thanks for your help and support this past year. I look forward to continuing our work together this year.

Sincerely,

Todd Hamilton

Superintendent

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Volunteers of the Year

On Thursday (May 31, 2012) during the annual Creswell Chamber of Commerce banquet, I proudly presented the 2012 Creswell School District Volunteer of the Year award to all of the Advisors and Coaches at Creswell High School.

Here are the comments I made during the presentation.

On behalf of Creswell School District, thank you for the privilege of joining you this evening to celebrate our outstanding community members. I am honored to present the award for Volunteer of the Year. But first, I want to set the stage for this award.

I won’t bore you with a report on the declining resources and increasing expectations for public schools. You know all about that.

But here’s something you might not know about: Creswell School District (and for that matter, every school district) is relying upon volunteers like never before to work with students, organize activities, and much much more.

This support is instrumental, and our teachers, our support staff, and most important, our students, are thankful.

This support extends beyond the “official school day” too, spilling over and enriching our kids’ lives. Besides the help we have in the classrooms, and for special activities, we have people who have devoted entire seasons to a group of kids. We have people who stay after school every day to provide guidance.

I’m talking about our high school coaches and advisors who are not being paid this year for their efforts due to budget reductions.

You probably didn’t even know these folks were volunteering their time. They were that dedicated.

With a complete elimination of general fund support, these people generously donated time and energy, and sometimes their own money, to maintain opportunities for our kids.

Our music teacher volunteered time for our students to perform at sporting events, concerts, and music festivals.

Our advisors volunteered time so students could engage in service learning, attend leadership events, perform in plays, and support the school newspaper and yearbook.

Our coaches volunteered time so athletes could continue to compete and maintain their dreams of becoming the next Luke Jackson or Mark Few. Or, just because they loved the game.

These advisors and coaches provided opportunities for students to pursue their passions, dreams, and individual or team championships.

Although they are outside the “official” school day, all of these activities and many more, enrich the teaching and learning that happens during the day, and provides memories for kids that last a lifetime.

With that said, I would like to ask all of our high school advisors and coaches who are here tonight, to please stand and be recognized.

I am proud to present the Volunteer of the Year Award to all of the Advisors and Coaches at Creswell High School who volunteered their time and energy to support our kids. Your time and your energy have made Creswell a better place, in a big way. Thank you.

 

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2012-13 Budget Message

(Budget Message shared at May 16th Budget Committee Meeting)

As Creswell School District prepares for the 2012-13 school year, the economic recession continues to affect public services in Oregon. K-12 education received nearly $400 million less in the current biennium than it did just a few years ago ($5.7 billion in 2011-13 compared to $6.1 billion in 2007-09). More than 15% of all school jobs have been lost in Oregon over the past three years. This year alone in Oregon, there was a 7% reduction in Teachers, a 7.4% reduction in Classified Employees, and a 7.8% reduction in Administrators. As a result, class sizes are increasing and students have access to fewer adults and resources.

The Oregon Quality Education Model (QEM) is a regularly updated bipartisan study that determines the level of funding required to ensure that 90% of Oregon’s students reach the state standards and are able to earn a New Oregon Diploma. The QEM includes recommendations on class size, technology, counselor ratios, and much more. In order to fund schools at the QEM level for the 2011-13 biennium, the legislature would need to allocate $8.75 billion for K-12 education. Currently Oregon schools are funded at nearly $5.7 billion, and that is $3.05 billion short of QEM recommendations – 30% shy of what the QEM says is required for student success.

Developing budgets during this biennium at this revenue level meant difficult choices around compensation, staffing, supplies and services, and utilization of ending fund balance dollars. It required an inclusive and thorough process for budget development. To meet this challenge, the Creswell School Board convened an ad hoc Finance Committee during the 2010-11 school year. The committee represented a cross-section of school staff and community members. The committee proved invaluable in vetting suggestions and direction. In preparation for the 2011-13 biennium, the Finance Committee recommendations included:

  1. Reducing staff and programs,
  2. Establishing programs and resources in lieu of utilizing Lane ESD services,
  3. Instituting utility efficiencies,
  4. Reducing supplies,
  5. Eliminating Appendix B stipends and extra-duty contracts that support after school programs,
  6. Reducing the contract length for staff by 8.4% (for the 2011-12 school year) which included a reduction in eleven (11) student-contact days, and
  7. Reviewing transportation, partnership opportunities, volunteerism, 4-day school weeks, and a local option levy.

As we prepared for the second year of the biennium (2012-13 school year), the Finance Committee recommendations were used as a starting point in conversations with budget committee members, staff members, and community members. The process began in February during a School Board work session that included all budget committee members, district staff, association leadership, and other building staff members. It continued with regular information sharing and input gathering from all buildings and departments. It included consideration of more than 125 cost saving suggestions. (See summary document at the end of this Budget Message.) It included thoughtful, time-consuming deliberation by administrators and cooperative, forthright, and collaborative conversations with our employee groups. The entire process culminated in the Proposed Budget presented here.

The 2012-13 Proposed Budget is a balance of sustaining reductions, shifting resources to improve student achievement, continued use of ending fund balance, new staffing reductions, and continued employee concessions. The Proposed Budget reduces teaching, administrative, and classified staffing levels. A change to the licensed staffing ratio will impact average class sizes, reduce the number of available classroom teachers, and reduce support for counseling services. Administratively, staff savings will come from a resignation at Creswell High School. Additionally, the district will reduce classified programming and not fill vacancies.

This Proposed Budget relies on employee concessions to maintain programs and further increases to class size. The proposal includes an assumption that employees will support a 2.1% reduction in salary resulting in a reduction of three (3) student-contact days and one (1) non-student contact day (i.e., holiday) – or a proportionate amount of non-student contact days for staff with contracts that exceed 190 days. This agreement would create a significant savings for the District. Students, however, would lose three (3) school days in this process. This makes it more difficult to provide necessary instructional time to help students meet essential skill levels now required to earn an Oregon Diploma.

Each element going into this year’s budget is designed to help the District reduce costs and maximize revenue while keeping the budget aligned with District goals and new Oregon Achievement Compacts – 100 percent of Oregonians earning a high school diploma or its equivalent, 40 percent earning a post-secondary credential, and 40 percent obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher by the year 2025.

CRESWELL SCHOOL DISTRICT GOALS for 2011-12

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

Goal 1: Increase student achievement for all students.
Goal 2: Increase the number of students who graduate from Creswell High School prepared and motivated for college, technical training opportunities, and employment.
Goal 3: Align Creswell School District as one educational unit.

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT

Goal 4: Build visible pride within Creswell Public Schools and throughout the community.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

Goal 5: Align the district budget with district goals and keep student achievement as top priority.

If the Budget Committee opts to suggest changes to the Proposed Budget, then I believe it is important to keep these priorities at the forefront of decision-making. It is also important to carefully reflect on the interplay of elements used to balance this budget if any changes to the Proposed Budget are to be enacted. A change in one area of this budget will have consequences on the feasibility of other portions of the document.

Sustainability is a key factor in the development of any budget, but especially a declining revenue budget. The District has faced budget sustainability issues from the onset of the recession. These have included declining state revenue, increasing personnel costs, a reliance on reducing student contact days, and utilization of ending balance funds. This Proposed Budget continues to rely on employee compensation concessions and our ending fund balance.

Employee concessions have had a significant and beneficial impact on the District’s budget for at least three years. However, they do not constitute a sustainable solution. They help address issues for a single year at a time, then previous employee agreements fall back into place. This unsustainable practice will lead to one of three future outcomes:

  1. Employees and the District through normal bargaining and determination processes permanently reset compensation at sustainable levels,
  2. Significant staffing reductions are made elsewhere in the budget to compensate for current salary and benefit costs, or
  3. The District realizes a proportionate and reliable increase in State School Fund revenue.

This Proposed Budget also relies on current year savings through use of the 2011-12 ending fund balance as a revenue source – approximately $500,000.

I would like to express my gratitude toward the staff of Creswell School District for continuing to make sacrifices and prepare our students for success in light of diminishing resources. I am humbled and proud to lead in Creswell.

I would also like to thank the Budget Committee for your willingness to serve the Creswell School District and its community. We look forward to your questions and guidance as we move toward approval and adoption of this budget for the 2012-13 school year.

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2012-13 Budget Update (March)

(An email to all staff on March 15, 2012)

It’s been a busy month since my last budget update. I want to extend my thanks to everyone who participated in the budget conversations – listening carefully, asking great questions, and providing quality feedback. Attached to this email is a summary of the reduction ideas that our collective group generated.

At the Board meeting last night, I shared an update on State School Fund estimates.

A revised State School Fund (SSF) estimate for 2011-12 School Year (SY) was released on March 3rd. The new estimate more accurately reflects our student enrollment, teacher experience, local revenue, and projected transportation costs. As a result, the Total Formula Revenue (Local Rev. + SSF Grant) increased by $276,956.

The initial SSF estimate for 2012-13 SY was released on March 5th. The estimate includes a more accurate representation of our current district composition, revenue, and expenditures. Accordingly, I have updated our General Fund Revenue predictions for developing the 2012-13 SY budget.

After encumbering our unbudgeted Special Education expenses, updating our 2011-12 SY SSF estimate, and modifying our projected 2012-13 SSF, our 2012-13 SY deficit is approximately $915,000 – a reduction of nearly $335,000 from our initial conversations in February.

Included below is a copy of the handouts I provided at the school board meeting.

We are currently developing draft budget models and will have more information to share after Spring Break.

Thank you again for working so hard to keep a quality focus on teaching and learning.

Files

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2012-13 Budget Outlook

(An email to all staff on February 2, 2012)

Last month, I provided an update on our revenue outlook for 2012-13. Since that update, I’ve been working with district staff and colleagues around the state to refine our revenue projections and begin “rolling up” expenditures for next year. At the school board work session last night, I shared an overview of what we know at this point regarding projected revenue and expenditures for the 2012-13 school year.

Here’s the short version (based on feedback from staff who just want to see the numbers):

Our projected revenue will be down approximately $280,000.

Our projected expenditures will be up approximately $973,000.

We project a deficit of approximately $1.25 million for the 2012-13 school year.

Long version:

Included below is a copy of the handouts I provided at the school board work session. The spreadsheet and “assumptions” provide additional details regarding how we arrived at the numbers above.

Over the next week, I will work with your principals and supervisors to schedule opportunities to explain the projected numbers in more detail and gather your input and suggestions for moving forward in the budgeting process. In the meantime, please feel free to send me any questions you might have.

Thank you again for working so hard to keep a quality focus on teaching and learning.

Files

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