Superintendent says district can now buy books, lower fees -

After his proposed 2014-15 budget was approved this week, Gladstone School District Superintendent Bob Stewart is looking forward to fulfilling the district’s commitment to lowering class sizes, hiring more teachers, restoring lost school days and purchasing new textbooks.

These changes would be made possible in part due to district enrollment increasing from 2,093 students in 2012-13 to 2,236 expected this fall. Other budget boosts came from a change in the state’s calculation of low-income students, and from an $860-per-year increase in the state's weighted per-student funding from the previous biennium.

After only $60,000 for textbooks in 2012, Stewart’s proposal for the coming school year includes $200,000 for purchasing new math books for kindergarteners and first graders, new English language-arts materials for grades K-5 and some English materials for grades 6-12.

His budget would also add more than eight full-time teaching positions over the 2013-14 budget, but the proposed 105.92 teachers is still not a full recovery for the district when compared with 108.34 for 2008-09. Even with the new hires, class size averages are expected to be 29 for elementary students and 32 for secondary students. Statewide, average class sizes are higher.

“The past six years of budget reductions in Oregon have been a challenge for our schools,” said Stewart. “I’m grateful to our staff for their commitment to move education forward despite hard times, increasing graduation rates, increasing college credit opportunities, and launching several new support programs for students. As the tide of Oregon’s economy begins to turn, I am confident that adding school days and staffing will amplify our work to help each student achieve more.”

This winter, the district gathered input from nearly 500 parents and employees through focus groups and surveys, which showed community members prioritize adding support for students, and time for classroom instruction and professional development. Survey respondents also wanted to lower costs to families, while adding support for the social-emotional needs of students.

In response, Gladstone’s budget proposal includes adding four days to the school year, including two more student instruction days and six more hours for staff development. Reduced student fees would include elimination of course fees at all schools.

The Gladstone School District Budget Committee, comprised of School Board members and five community members, approved the proposed budget on May 7. The School Board will hold a public hearing to adopt the budget for 2014-15 on June 11.

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