Education remains strong
by Superintendent Ken Ladouceur PhD
The St Johns Board of Education approved the 2011-12 budget at its regular meeting on June 27. St. Johns Public Schools has a strong reputation for excellence in education and courage in addressing challenging times. Both of these attributes were evident as the Board made necessary cuts, yet demonstrated its priority to serve the needs of all students in the St. Johns School District.
Throughout this difficult budget process board members consistently held to the core values that guide our district. After resignations, retirements and new programming, what was originally feared to be a cut of 22 teachers across the district resulted in the laying off of only nine teaching staff. Some class sizes will increase next year in certain elementary classrooms, and core subject areas in the middle school and high school will be increased. Support that was recently added in the past two years had to be removed as budgetary conditions could not sustain these programs. Some employee groups made the noble gesture of volunteering concessions. These were appreciated and are deeply respected by the Board.
Athletics and the arts – including music, theatre and arts education – remain strong in St. Johns Public Schools. In an effort to minimize program reductions, the Board adopted budgetary proposals from both the high school and middle school athletic/arts administrative teams that will result in nominal increases in gate ticket prices and pay-to-play fees.
The district budget has been reduced by $1.2 million from last year and we project maintaining a 9.2 percent fund balance, or $2.3 million, for June 2012. We will face further cuts again next year, but we are confident that the strength and resolve of our community will allow us to continue to provide a superior education for all of the children in the St. Johns School District.
In spite of the financial hardship in education today, the Board moved forward with the implementation of all-day, every day kindergarten. We are already seeing a significant increase in our kindergarten enrollment for next year which may be due to the popularity of this new program. The increased cost may be offset by these new students. The excitement in our kindergarten staff is infectious as we watch teachers planning for the fall. We are all pleased to be serving residents in and around the St. Johns School District.
We remain grateful for the $64 million bond that was recently provided by our community. Planning and design has been underway all winter, and construction will be in full swing by the time school reconvenes in the fall. Elementary and middle school students will return to exciting new technology that will revolutionize how education is delivered – while the high school students will return to a “cone zone” of construction. We are excited about it all!
I want to wish everyone a safe and relaxing summer. We have addressed some challenging times this spring and I am proud of our community and our staff for their tremendous effort, patience and consideration through it all.