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School board approves budget

MARYSVILLE — Running counter to a previous recommendation by district staff, a majority of the Marysville School District Board of Directors voted June 1 to amend the preliminary budget presented by MSD Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland and Finance Director Jim Baker.

MSD Board President Michael Kundu moved to authorize continued budget development around Priority List A and I-728, with the exclusion of German and Japanese world language instructors, custodial support and math coach positions. Kundu further moved that funding to retain these positions should come from reducing the number of recalled teachers, and by providing district leadership with flexibility in negotiating with union groups to achieve the reductions as outlined previously.

Board members Darci Becker and Don Hatch voted in favor of Kundu’s proposal, while Board member Cindy Erickson voted against it, and Board member Sherri Crenshaw abstained from voting. Crenshaw later stated for the record that she shared the desire to retain the positions outlined by Kundu, but she was displeased that there was no discussion of other alternatives to allow those positions to be retained, that would not affect student/teacher ratios.

The amended preliminary budget restores 1.6 FTE world language teachers, 0.7 FTE math coach and two FTE custodians, by adding five FTE in K-4 reductions to the Priority A List. Nyland noted that the current student/teacher ratio for fourth-grade teachers within the district is 23-1, but it’s only contractually obligated to be 27-1. Crenshaw expressed concerns about creating larger class sizes for these teachers, even as she suggested that German not being listed as an elective might have generated “misleading information” about how many students actually wished to enroll in that class. As she’d done during the Board’s May 26 work study session, Erickson pointed out that enrollment in the German and Japanese classes was declining before the implementation of the Smaller Learning Communities at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, although she declined to guess as to reasons why.

Kundu, who had learned English as a second language himself, recognized the value of Spanish language courses, but he characterized courses such as Japanese and German as means to “expand horizons” for the district’s high school students, especially as “their world is shrinking.” Becker shared Kundu’s view of Japanese language courses as helpful to students growing up in an increasingly global economy, and speculated that a number of students might be enrolling in Spanish because “they think it’s easy, like I did at first, until I got to my second year of it,” she laughed.

Baker and Brandon had already scheduled meetings with unions, to take place June 2, to explore other alternatives. RIF notices have been sent to 50 FTE teachers, with 17 of those for declining enrollment, 16 due to I-728 and five because their positions were pending budget approval, with the remaining positions represented on Priority List A, among them TOSAs and elementary specialists. The preliminary budget situation report anticipated that nearly 20 teachers would be recalled in the days following the Board’s June 1 budget action, most of those due to resignations, which would allow the district to reopen existing positions.

Full budget priority and reduction lists can be found on the Web site for the Marysville School District Finance Department, located online at www.msvl.k12.wa.us/Department/finance/finance_main.htm.

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