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Marysville School District holds forum to discuss cuts

From left, Kamela Tuengel and Liz Dobler write down questions for the Marysville School District’s public forum on the mid-year budget cuts Jan. 13. - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, Kamela Tuengel and Liz Dobler write down questions for the Marysville School District’s public forum on the mid-year budget cuts Jan. 13.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — The postponement of varsity athletics at the Marysville Getchell High School campus proved to be one of the areas of greatest concern among community members who attended the Marysville School District’s public forum Jan. 13.

Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland solicited questions from the packed crowd through both index cards and raised hands, and while his staff recorded a number of suggestions from the audience, many attendees were there to express their displeasure that the Marysville Getchell Chargers won’t be able to take to take the field until the fall of 2012.

Nyland noted that students can still participate in varsity football through Marysville-Pilchuck High School, and added that the school district is still maintaining its league-required C-squads. However, Nyland elaborated that the district’s non-required C-squads will not continue, and roughly half of the sports programs for seventh- and ninth-graders will be reduced starting this spring.

These cuts were made in response to the state government’s moves, made before the winter holiday break, to take back more than $2.3 million in funds

When parents at the meeting suggested that the district turn to local businesses for possible sponsorships of the schools’ sports teams, Nyland pointed out that the district already receives roughly $350,000 a year from community organizations ranging from various PTAs and booster clubs to the local Rotary, Kiwanis and Soroptimist clubs.

“We’re already well-supported by the community,” Nyland said. “It costs about $300,000 just to equip our students for sports. If around $300,000 is the best the community can do now, you’re asking them to double that amount in two weeks.”

When parents reported that Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Assistant Executive Director John Miller had told them that there was no WIAA deadline for the Marysville School District to make its decision, Nyland clarified that the deadline was self-imposed by the Marysville School District itself.

“I feel disrespected,” said one woman, who asked not to be identified. “You’re not giving us the chance to talk.”

“I understand your concerns, but it’s a hard decision,” replied fellow attendee Pamela Borromeo. “My kids play sports too, but the mission of our schools is to educate our children, not for them to play sports.”

Borromeo’s remarks drew an outcry from many members of the crowd, prompting Nyland to table that debate so as to avoid derailing the ongoing discussion. Later in the discussion, other parents asserted that school sports help keep many students connected to their classwork.

When attendees suggested shortening school weeks or eliminating half-days and snow days, Nyland cited the hidden costs and the minimum days-per-year requirements that would diminish the potential savings of such moves.

Nyland informed the crowd that online textbooks require school districts to reinvest the same amount of money every four years, thereby making them more expensive than traditional printed texts. He likewise explained that even closing one of the schools would require the district to spend money on an outside consultant in order to conduct the process promptly and impartially.

MSD Assistant Superintendent Gail Miller was able to ease one parent’s fears about the math curriculum by assuring her that all four years of math textbooks in the current curriculum had been purchased before the district suspended the purchase of new textbooks. By contrast, when the parent of a special needs child asked if the district would continue a number of special education-related services that will no longer be funded by the state Department of Social and Health Services, Nyland resolved to look into the matter.

By the end of the meeting, Marysville School Board member Wendy Fryberg had asked parents to write down their questions for Marysville School District Athletic Director Greg Erickson to help facilitate a community meeting to try and save school sports, while Nyland had supplied contact information for the citizens’ Congresspersons.

“They listen to parents a lot more than they listen to school staff,” Nyland said.

The state Legislature’s hotline is 1-800-562-6000. The Legislators’ websites are www.leg.wa.gov/senate/senators and www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives.

Even with the implementation of proposed measures such as a 10 percent Reduction In Force in its operations staff and a 2 percent salary reduction from all its employee groups, the district could still be facing a remaining budget shortfall of nearly $1 million.

Nyland identified early February as the district’s target to make any cuts, since that’s the deadline to revise the budget for the remainder of the school year.

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