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As Closing a School Emerges as an Option, District Calls for Emergency Meeting Thursday

| May 7, 2013

Despite the number of programs on the line for elimination, the school board's meeting room was largely empty as board members went down their list of cuts. (c FlaglerLive)

Despite the number of programs on the line for elimination, the school board’s meeting room was largely empty as board members went down their list of cuts. (c FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: 7:14 p.m.

By 2:45 this afternoon, after almost six hours of debates on how to cut $1.7 million from its budget, the Flagler County School Board was still almost $1 million short.

Discussion turned to closing a school, which would save $900,000. The options proposed are closing either Wadsworth or Old Kings Elementary. If Wadswroth were closed, the massive building between Wadsworth and the old portion of Buddy Taylor Middle School could be turned over to Buddy Taylort, which would potentially enable the closing of Indian Trails Middle School.

Board member Sue Dickinson, with tempers getting testy and Board Chairman Andy Dance asking her to humor him with one more line-by line exercise, put it starkly: The electorate must know that the board is cutting big-ticket items, including closing schools or eliminating classes such as the so-called “wheel” system in elementary schools, if it’s going to be shaken up enough to vote for a tax that would avoid these cuts.

“The longer we wait the more negative votes are going to get mailed in against us,” Dickinson said. “It’s not our final decision. It’s the public’s final decision. If they don’t want us to have the wheel anymore, if they don’t want us to close a school, they’re going to make that decision on June 7.”

But the board at mid-afternoon could not bring itself to make that $1 million jump beyond deciding that between eliminating the wheel system and closing down a school, the closure of a school would come first. Board member Trevor Tucker was adamantly opposed to eliminating the wheel system, which provides a variety of different subjects to elementary students on a rotating basis during the year. Tucker said closing a school would preserve those classes, while requiring students to be shifted. He had support from two other board members.

“We are down to that point, we have to meet our budget, we have to do that, so it’s just as realistic as cutting the wheel,” Superintendent Janet Valentine said.

That’s where matters stood as the clock approached 3 p.m., with just one hour left before the meeting had to send, so other scheduled meetings of the same board that have nothing to do with budgeting could begin.

Once the notions of closing a school or eliminating the wheel were on the table, a seemingly shocked board took a break and reconvened, with Andy Dance, the board chairman, reversing the entire day’s process: all the morning and afternoon debates were put aside, the list of cuts was redrawn to show a school closure and the elimination of the wheel system as untouchables, leaving everything else on the district’s elimination list as required cuts: closing the alternative school, requiring students who live within two miles of a school to walk rather than take the bus, eliminating media aides and six paraprofessionals, eliminating all travel, eliminating the after-school strings program, and numerous other items.

“Yeah, we spent the morning talking about all these items, but at the end of the day we still need to cut $1 million,” board member Colleen Conklin said. “If we’re not willing to deal with closing a school or cutting the wheel, then we need to do all those other cuts.”

It was confusing. But the board itself was confused as it tried to wrap its numbers around the right approach. “We discussed all day and we couldn’t reach the target,” Dance said. “This is a way to reach the target.”

But there wasn’t much consensus among board members.

At 3:30 p.m., yet another option emerged: Closing the alternative school, eliminating media aides despite principals’ insistence that they remain in place, and imposing the 2-mile limit. The combined savings would be $962,000. That, in addition to the savings agreed to earlier, would keep the board from having to close a school or eliminate the wheel system.

And it wasn’t quite at the total in savings the board needed to come up with.

“This closing of a school is going to be so disruptive to the largest group of students,” Superintendent Janet Valentine said.

Many programs, in essence, became chips in a political process: board members were declaring that they had to make cuts, they had to eliminate programs, they had to eliminate services, leaving it up to voters to decide on June 7 to restore them.

Kristy Gavin, the board attorney, raised another caution about closing a school: it would be immediate bait for charter schools, which could use the building without being charged rent: they are public schools operated by private entities, and by state law they get to use existing school buildings, which cannot be leased to those operators.

The decision came down to Colleen Conklin, with the rest of the board split between willingness to close a school other than the alternative school (John Fischer and Sue Dickinson) and willingness to close the alternative school, eliminating the 2-mile rule, and eliminating media aides.

She did not take a decision. The board agreed to end the meeting and call for an emergency meeting for Thursday morning, May 9, at 8 a.m.

The board had convened at 8:30 this morning to figure out what to cut from next year’s programs. The board knew it was facing a day-long meeting. But by late morning, it still hadn’t settled on a single cut, as it got repeatedly sidetracked by a mixture of budgeting details and lack of clarity in the numbers, down to the sort of dollars the state is awarding the county for next year: in the space of less than a week, that figure changed by $400,000, reportedly increasing the local deficit—as the district sees it—by that amount. The total the district is trying to make up is $1.7 million.

“This is a moving target,” Tom Tant, the district’s chief financial officer, told the board in his introductory presentation. In early July, the state will produce yet another set of budget numbers that could upend whatever the district settles on by then.

But there wasn’t just one target, as this morning’s meeting made clear: the district’s roughly $100 million budget is complex and multi-headed, including, for example, such operations as its adult education program, designed to run as its own, self-funded enterprise. But that nearly $5 million budget mired the board in a long discussion this morning as it tried to figure out to what extent the general fund was subsidizing the adult education budget, and how much of that subsidy could be cut.

“What we need is for adult education to come back and add something to this list to help us,” Conklin said, raising in her left hand the sheet listing numerous programs the district was considering cutting.

That was just one of the targets. And all of them were moving.

That $1.7 million figure, for example, doesn’t include a projected cut of more than $1 million in federal funding. But the figure only partially includes the amount the district is ready to plug in from its reserves, which currently stand at $7.4 million. In other words, as the district began its budgeting this year, it was already budgeting on the assumption that it was dipping into reserves to withdraw $1.7 million. That leaves the district’s net reserves at below $5 million.

Board Chairman Andy Dance tallying up figures with Board Attorney Kristy Gavin, standing, and Finance Director Patty Wormeck during a 3 p.m. break.

Board Chairman Andy Dance tallying up figures with Board Attorney Kristy Gavin, standing, and Finance Director Patty Wormeck during a 3 p.m. break.

And those expected deficits are developing despite a projected increase of $5.2 million in state funding ($100,000 less than the district calculated last week). The paradox is explained this way: whole the state is appropriating more money to local districts, the new money is quickly eroded by new and costly requirements, including a raise for teachers, a huge increase in districts’ retirement and costs, and new requirements that local districts pay for students dually enrolled in community colleges. For the Flagler district, that translates to a new, $180,000 bill to account for students enrolling at Daytona State College—a higher education cost now levied on primary and secondary education schools.

Thrown in the mix is the district’s campaign to pass a property tax levy on June 7 that would equate to 50 cents per $1,000 in taxable value (or $24 a year for a house valued at $123,000, the current average value in the county, with a homestead exemption). The levy would bring in roughly $4 million a year and would negate one—though possibly not all—the cuts, while enabling two major initiatives the board wants to accomplish: first, restore the 45 minutes a day cut from the school day in middle and high schools two years ago, to save money. Second, to add cops in all elementary schools and revamp security measures in all schools, in response to concerns following the Newtown elementary school massacre.

At 11:30, the board began its line-item elimination exercise—three hours after the board first convened.

A long list of potential cuts was on the table: eliminating the outsourcing of the two high school graduations to Volusia and St. Johns counties, eliminating the district’s alternative school, eliminating nine media aides, eliminating the Flagler Youth Orchestra’s strings program, reducing travel, not paying for library books for a year, eliminating six paraprofessionals, eliminating funding for certain academic competitions, shortening the elementary school day by 45 minutes, even potentially closing a school.

Dance began that portion of the discussion with a defense of “niche programs that really separate us and are leading to the increased performance that we’ve seen.” He specified, for example, problem solver competitions. “They may be bigger benefits than just the dollars and cents.”

He added: “I would think as part of our school identity and culture it’s one of the things we want to set as a priority.” But many such comments would be rendered moot by subsequent debates and conclusions.

Conklin suggested to “meet in the middle with it,” so that the funding is shared.

By lunchtime, the board had agreed to cut a half dozen items, including a grant-writer’s contract, two administrative positions at the district office, energy savings, the teacher of the year competition ($10,000 that will be privately funded from here on), a year’s worth of new school library books ($100,000), keeping in mind that libraries themselves would not be affected beyond not being able to buy books for a year.

“There’s not a thing on this list that I want to be naming,” Superintendent Janet Valentine said. By then–at noon, when the board broke for lunch–members had tallied up just over $500,000 in cuts. Immediately after lunch the figure jumped to $612,000 when the board agreed to cut six para-professional positions (non-instructional personnel paid $18,000 a year—already, less than a living wage in Flagler County. A percentage of the $244,000 out-of-county travel budget will be cut, though there was no precise number.

The board spent about a half hour discussing the budget of the Flagler Youth Orchestra–an overall budget of $67,000. The cost to the district, however, is $57,000, as the program pays for one of its teachers with its own funds. Cheryl Tristam, the program director, proposed reducing the cost to the district by an additional $12,000 by having the program assume the cost of yet another teacher and eliminating transportation, which costs the district $2,500. The board set aside the matter to discuss more directly academic costs before deciding the orchestra’s fate.

Among those costs: the Linear Park and Princess Place service learning programs, which serve only a handful of students. Those programs have become more difficult to manage, Valentine said, and “can’t be the same kind of program we used to provide” because of new state strictures. With the district adding a tech school component to Flagler Palm Coast High School, and continuing Phoenix Academy, the specialized school on FPC’s campus, Valentine recommended eliminating the two programs. The board agreed to eliminate 80 percent of the cost, saving $80,000.

Several programs and services did not get cut, and were removed from the elimination list: The proposal to require all elementary age students who live within a two-mile radius of their school to walk rather than take the bus would have saved $200,000, but there was no support for eliminating the service. Principals asked that eight media aides not be removed from their staffs. That would have saved $184,000, but board members wanted to honor principals’ request. Everest alternative school costs $577,000, but board members were curious about the possibility of returning the 50-some students who attend the alternative school back to regular campuses. Winnie Oden, the principal at Everest, argued strongly against the idea. Board members were more amenable to reducing the number of teachers there (five), who serve about 50 students.

But by close to 3 p.m., the board was still $1 million short of its goal, having tallied up just $755,000.

“Somebody is going to perform a miracle, I don’t know who it is,” Dickinson said as the board took a 15-minute break at 3 p.m.

This story will be updated as it develops.

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53 Responses for “As Closing a School Emerges as an Option, District Calls for Emergency Meeting Thursday”

  1. Initialjoe says:

    Excuse me….did I hear right? Library Books eliminated? Is that serious? Kids don’t need new books or anything…just throw them crap and hope and let them graduate a year behind. You don’t eliminate a library budget totally…that’s ridiculous.

    And second, strings and academic competitions eliminated. What do kids have to look forward to. What does Flagler offer for extracurricular for creative/academic students…this is equally as ridiculous.

    • flagresident says:

      They said they would eliminate spending money on books for 1 year. Not forever… it’s not like they are burning all the books. Plus, it’s 2013, these kids would rather use the laptops and ipads to read anyway. They probably have a better selection of books and resources online too. It’s better then the media aides who have probably worked for the school for 15 + years losing their jobs. My son in elementary school does his reading homework every night from a print out he gets from the teacher, he’s never brought home a book and my other son in highschool checks out his reading assignments and summer reading books from the local library.

  2. confidential says:

    @Initial Joe; the 577,000 plus for the charters have to come from somewhere right? So lets cut all the cultural programs like the Youth String Orchestra and have the kids walk 2 miles in unincorporated areas with no sidewalks and maniacs speeding around them….so we can pay more charters and administrative curriculum specialist and the supers assistants, etc. at over 100 grand a year. Great way to invest our school taxes in anything but the students.

  3. Darby says:

    They need to cut 1 million dollars more….Well, how about NOT purchasing the old hospital and use that money to help our children….You think you county politicians can SPARE a little of your profit for the children ?

    • bill says:

      GOOD START

    • Brian Curbow says:

      I have an even better idea. Why not eliminate the salaries these School Board members get and put that money towards the shortage in the budget! Also, we could ask Governor Scott for a detailed list of all the monies from the LOTTERY that have supposedly gone towards education and where it all went and which districts got what. All those BILLIONS of dollars that have been advertised as having gone towards education went directly into the pockets of the politicians and their cronies running it!

      Also, if they wanted to get creative…….they could cut the football program at the high schools. That would save a huge chunk of their budget. But wait……FOOTBALL will never get cut! They would rather eliminate music programs and after school activities that keep these kids off the streets!

  4. Edman says:

    Two suggestions: cut the false feel good move of putting cops in schools and have parents pay a fee to bus students who live closer than two miles to the schools, unless there is a safety issue.

  5. fla native says:

    Janet Valentine and her henchmen: “Let them eat cake.” I have no sympathy when I drive by these schools in Flagler County and see all the luxury cars in the parking lots and it’s not the students’ cars.

  6. amom says:

    Are you kidding?? But hey, they are adding school guards to please the NRA?????? Hope they make everyone feel good. Unless they are constantly locked and loaded, they will be useless!!

    • anon says:

      Are you kidding???????????Lets blame the NRA for everything.Its a money problem.If you don’t want the security than vote against the proposed tax hike to cover the security.The school system needs to look at what they are spending money on a little closer.Instead of trying to use the problem to maximize the money issue to get what they want.I do not have any children in the school system.They have all graduated years ago.I will vote for the tax.The NRA is not holding a gun to any ones head they are just recommending a solution to the current school violence problem.Your last comment about being constantly locked and loaded makes no scene.

  7. bill says:

    Did i read right another tax,bull every time a problem comes around yet another tax. Look around and see the way the money is being spent. Get rid of some of the over payed people it would be a good start.

  8. Ryan McDermott says:

    I have to start by saying I am extremely glad I am not in the position of being a member of the school board. Making these decisions is something no one should have to do, but someone must do it.

    Does cutting transportation include any transportation to sporting competitions and academic competitions at the high school and middle school level? If so, this is effecting hundreds or thousands of students, much more than the 50 kids over at Ms Oden’s school. right? If we are effecting students with budget cuts, let us do things that will effect them the least or effect the least amount of students first. I am sure you all as school board members are trying that, but transportation is something that made my high school experience 10 times better. Without it, I would not have gained valuable experiences to make me the college student I am today.

    Cutting buying library books is very reasonable. With text books becoming available online and other things, this is a very smart decision. I wonder if there is data that shows how often brand new books are checked out compared to the classics… I am also sad to hear we have to let go of those who work in the library, but being a previous Flagler County student I have to admit that some of these positions could be cut.

    I didn’t have this rotational wheel schedule when I went to OKES or WES, so I do not know how much it benefits the students. Mr Tucker seems to find it beneficial to students and I am inclined to believe him, but I hope there is data to back the decision.

    The worst thing this county had to do was cut the school day by 45 minutes. With these extra 45 minutes, it is ridiculous how much more I might have known before going into college. The point of high school is to prepare students for real life, so cutting down that instruction time is extremely harmful to that goal. As my math awesome calculus teacher told me, cutting down 45 minutes throughout a year is like having an extra winter break and some more days off during the year if you crunch the numbers. People already complain about “those kids” being out of school for the entire summer. We are now out for the entire summer and 2 winter breaks and spring break. There is power in numbers and data.

    This article states that money has to now be spent on paying teachers more, increased retirement benefits, and pay for students to go to community college while in high school. This money is going to a good place. Making teaching a more valuable job should bring in better teachers (as long as the administration get rid of the bad teachers that don’t deserve the pay) and having a system that allows smarter students to start to taking DSC courses is an amazing resource. Like I said, the goal is to educate our students, and putting money towards these things will hopefully do that.

    Good luck school board members on fixing our schools. You are going to have to make some cuts, but that doesn’t mean the education and experience the Flagler County schools provide should suffer an extreme amount.

    Lastly, I think most of the community, almost all students, and myself were very disappointed with the decision of the majority of the board to create a “uniform” dress code. Please don’t disappoint us again by doing something the majority of the community may not want. Like Ms Dickinson said: “It’s not our final decision. It’s the public’s final decision.”

    tldr: this is a tough job, good luck, bring back the 45 minutes, try not to cut transportation to extra-curriculars that hundreds of students benefit from, uniforms make me sad (especially not being able to wear flip flops), and keep the IB program no matter what!

    -FPC Class of 2011

    • Sue Dickinson says:

      Ryan you have hit the nail on the head. We had to cut 45 minutes in the past – we were forced to that. Now we are trying to get the community to help us in putting those very important minutes back into the students day. This board needs to put it to the community what is needed to be cut and let the voters decide what direction we go in. It is not the boards decision it is the voters decision. Thanks once again for being there for our children. You have always made the right statement. Hope all is well with your post secondary education.

  9. Nancy N. says:

    Darby, the money being used to purchase the hospital comes out of the Flagler County budget. The School District is an entirely separate entity legally with it’s own revenue and budget – saying to use the hospital funds would be like telling me to just have my neighbor pay for a new roof on my house because they have plenty of money. We live near each other but that doesn’t mean the money is mine!

    FLA Native – you don’t know whose cars those are! They could belong to parents or other community volunteers who are visiting the buildings. Really, when you think about it…who has the time to visit schools during the day? People who are well off and don’t have to work.

    • Darby says:

      Who are you trying slid a fast one over on ? The Flagler County budget and the School Districts budget ALL come from US, the tax payer. WE will tell YOU how and when to spend our money. And WE are telling YOU we want the money spent on the CHILDREN and NOT a run down disease infested building in Bunnell.

  10. Bob Z. says:

    “fla native” stikes again! I find it hard to believe that someone could post such an ignorant thing, and I cannot believe I am wasting time replying.

    I know many people who drive nice cars and live in what I call sub-par housing – to each their own…people spend money in different ways!

  11. Justin says:

    Good people are dropping out because of these schools are like prison camps…

  12. nyy says:

    We all have to live within our budgets. So should the school board!

    • Marvelous says:

      This is for educating the people that will be taking care of you when you no longer can. I would want them to have the best education possible. They have less money because the property values and the state have decreased funding and made unfunded mandates.

      • thinkforyourself says:

        This isn’t the first round of cuts. They’ve already cut $12 million dollars. What more do you want?

    • Sue Dickinson says:

      Absolutely – we are doing just that. Our children will suffer from whatever decision is made.

  13. Melissa says:

    This is not a new tax. It is a continuation and amounts to $24 a year for a 123,000 home with homestead. Everyone must vote YES on June 7!! $24 A YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. confidential says:

    Lets make clear that the luxury cars do not belong to the school teachers, but instead to the fat cat administrators.
    What is a Curriculum Specialist to get paid 105,000 in the school administration and have several for the different schools? And all these assistants at close to 100 grand? While the moral of our students is down the drain with the majority eligible for free lunch due to economic duress? Student enrollment is down in Flagler and even Volusia and they want more of our hard earned taxes? Do not aim a our students transport and arts like the Youth String Orchestra but instead aim at the administrative fat cuts!

  15. Out of curiosity says:

    Hmmm..seems like the cuts are always on the bottom, nothing from the top except for the two admin. positions.

  16. betsy says:

    CLOSE a school? how about eliminate unnecessary jobs at the TOP…..this is ridiculous! there IS money….its just not being spent in the best way.

    • Sue Dickinson says:

      I have asked this question and have only been given the two positions that people are retiring from.

  17. biker says:

    Time to look at the administrators salaries. Let’s start with a 20% across the board cut to their salaries and benefits. That would certainly go a long way towards closing this gap..

  18. Murphy Brown says:

    Notice the one thing missing in may discussions re budget cutting:
    CUTTING THE SALARIES OF TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS

    A percentage cut across the board would more than generate enough savings to keep schools open and restore minutes cut from the day.

    How come there is so little serious discussion on this?

  19. Binkey says:

    Darby,
    The school budget and County budget are two separate things. Not buying the old hospital would save the county money but none of that money goes to schools.

    For those of you who say the school district has to live within its budget… it will, it has to. The school district has been quiet (until now) about what not passing the .5 mil means to the budget. Now we have some idea of the choices they are considering to stay within their budget.

    Ryan
    Wheel class is Art, Music, PE. We have been fortunate in Flagler County because we have been able to preserve those classes in elementary schools. Other counties have not. I believe if these classes are eliminated elementary school day would be reduced by 45 minutes a day for the students. I could be mistaken, but there are only so many minutes a week teachers have the students. I would like to see some clarification on what eliminating wheel teachers would mean.
    My thoughts…
    I would think that closing a school would mean Belle Terre or ITMS. The two campuses are close together and could be combined as one campus. That would still keep elementary schools near the present locations. Closing any other school would leave an area without a school and would increase transportation costs. Additionally, closing a school does not completely eliminate its cost. The school would still have to be maintained and AC would still have to be used. Mold will begin to grow in Florida within 48 hours if temperatures and humidity values are high enough (I believe 60% RH). Eliminating mold is expensive and difficult.

    Kind of surprised no one is really considering moving or closing Phoenix Academy. If they are determined to keep it, it would be more efficient to have Phoenix at an existing campus (school within a school model) and eliminate the cost of running a campus for a handful of students. Additionally, the effectiveness of Phoenix should be examined. Are we getting the bang for the buck? The building that school occupies will be occupied anyway, school opened or closed, and maybe closing it would not save that much. I’m not sure.

    I see they dropped the idea of the transportation change. The transportation change would have indeed save money for the district, but it would have transferred that cost to the parents of students who live between 1 and 2 miles. The reality is many parents will not have their 5 year old walk 1.9 miles to school. The parents will drive the students. That will be 10 trips a week and will cost the parents gas and wear and tear – not to mention increase the cost of time spent waiting for car rider line etc. Additionally, it would increase traffic around the schools – a lot.

    One area I did not see any mention of was energy management. Those campuses are huge and probably not very efficient when it comes to utilities. Being very precise with power usage could probably save quite a bit. The schools are open about 16 hours a day, cutting electric use by an hour a day could probably save about $150k a year without much effort. Also making sure the air temperature and humidity levels are correct (no easy task since everyone has different comfort levels) could save a bundle. When students and teachers are wearing jackets inside in May, then the air is not set correctly and money is being wasted.

    Also the district has quite a few outside organizations using the facilities for free. These organizations are great community groups, but they cost the district money. For example, PAL basketball. PAL provides a great service for our children in the community for organized sports. It is not uncommon to see PAL at a school’s gym 6 nights a week (practices and games). Having the gym open for this time costs the district money. Limiting outside groups access to the campuses to certain days and times would allow cleaning schedules to be created that would get the air and lights in these large areas like the gym to be shut down so the district is not running air an additional 7 hours a night. Again I think PAL is great, but limit them to Monday-Wednesday and Saturday. Also other groups should be scheduled in a manner that limits the time electric is on in an area especially large areas. Would doing this scheduling take some additional planning? Yep, but it could be done.

    Will doing these things make up the budget difference? Not completely, but it would help. The district has cut and cut and cut. It is getting very difficult to find places to cut and state mandated programs are increasing the districts cost.

    Like I said the district will live within its budget. The .5 mil will help determine what services the district can provide within that budget.

  20. DP says:

    Scare tactics once again being used by the school board. Remember folks we have a vote regarding another increase in our milleage rates coming from the school board. It’s time to stop and look at the real picture here. Stop raising our taxes, if you really want to save money cut some of those top heavy administration positions, you’ll find you’re 1.7 million $$$$ real quick. Vote NO on any tax increase, and vow to remove the unwilling from office who fail to address the bigger picture.

    • ??? says:

      Yes, data and numbers are “scare tactics”….

      And yes, you are voting on an “increase” in millage rates in that increase means keep the same current tax…

      They are taking your guns too (;

  21. Singlemomof2 says:

    I have to agree that the elimination of some of the upper level positions on the scale makes a lot of sense. Working with some individuals such as our paraprofessionals who are paid far less than their worth I can say our schools and children with special needs benefit from them more than they do a curriculum specialist. Cutting programs such as the strings, and wheel classes is such a sad thing to hear as this is what provides our children the ability to find an outlet for their creativity and lends to diversity in their learning.

    Why not look a the idea of NOT adopting new curriculum every 5 years. Does 1+1 not equal 2 no matter what book it is taught from? Library aides being let go just might mean the media specialists would have to work a bit harder (although it is sad to see a person let go) and YES a library can do without having new books for 1 year. There are so many programs in which books can be received through donation, although that may take some good old fashioned work and effort… GO figure.

    How about cutting some of the AP positions. Although schools have changed and grown in our area, I can distinctly remember only 1 Principal 1 Asst Principal at each location. Theres a good size cut.

    YES YES YES eliminate the alternative program Everest. Make the high paid administrators and the teachers do their job and handle these situations better. What happened to good old fashioned expulsion. Yes it sounds harsh, but when the students have no alternative and parents have to do their jobs then there is no “easy way out” maybe then the children would be more accountable for their actions. The program is a joke and should be eliminated. If the schools cannot handle the behaviors of 50 children across the board, maybe the people in charge should be looked at and a lower cost alternative put on campuses to assist these students more appropriately. 50 children-5 teachers-2 admin -3 support staff-1 resource officer??? sounds excessive and unnecessary.

    Let’s not even talk about school board salaries…there’s a thought!!

  22. turtle says:

    Typical of Sue Dickenson and John Fischer to want to close an elementary school – which would affect more than one THOUSAND students – rather than close a couple of alternative schools – which would only affect about 140 students. Why on earth is closing a school even up for discussion when they are planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to ADD security to every school?!! Are they really discussing cutting 45 minutes from the elementary schools, but, at the same time, adding 45 minutes to the high schools? How does that make sense? Come on School Board – do the right thing here!!! If you want this tax increase then don’t cut all of the things that the parents want to keep and add a bunch of unnecessary expenses that we don’t want!!!!

  23. Flaglerdude says:

    Here are the things they SHOULD HAVE CUT:
    Everest Alternative school (SERVES 50 STUDENTS)- price tag 577,000
    Making students within 2 miles of their school walk- price tag 200,000
    Cutting principal aids-price tag 184,000

    This board needs to start thinking about real solutions and stop messing around. There are many USELESS staff positions at our schools that are completely draining money.

    CONGRATS SCHOOL BOARD ON GETTING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING DONE! (As usual)

  24. Marilee says:

    I have circulated 43,607 items since the beginning of the school year at Wadsworth. With a population of 800+ students, that equates to 43 books per child. What keeps students coming to the library to checkout books? An educated, helpful library staff and new books. Kids start a series and want to be able to read the next one that comes out. That’s why new books are so important. Not every student has a mobile device to read books online and the selection of online books is not comparable to the print selection. The Wadsworth library provides access to print books, ebooks and audiobooks. If a child does not bring home library books, that is the student’s choice, not a fault of the library. Students whose parents read at home are more likely to be enthused about reading and coming to the library. Reading is the foundation of education. The best way to get better at reading is to read, whether it is books, online materials or magazines. The WES library provides all those formats.

  25. mary says:

    Once again I must say why does the school board members get paid $30,000.00 with perks when other states have volunteer school board members. Smarter to start with cuts there than with some one that makes $18,000.00, which is incorrect, reality is most make $15,000.00 or less.

  26. Cut the cit officials over paid wages says:

    Wow! This country keeps getting better. When its time to cut budget they always go after the schools. How about cutting the top officials of the school board, over paid wages and city officials over paid wages, if they can not budget the budget its time to cut back. Increase their ins. deductible and maybe have them pay for ins out of the over paid wages. I pay for mine. These children do not have a chance in this world today. They are the future of this country. They do not even have books, it is always a handout. Its not all about online children need BOOKS!!!!

  27. Stevie says:

    Home schooling and the internet are going to close the public schools down eventually. The public schools system in it’s present form is just simply not sustainable in a no growth, no jobs economy that isn’t going to end soon.

  28. Realty Check says:

    Not one mention of the assistant superintendent? Why does Flagler need this 6 figure position? Cuts and more cuts yet nothing from the FCSB about taking a pay cut. Why don’t you lease out that golden palace you had built on HWY 100 and move into a portable behind a school? Because these are real cuts and you will not make them, a full day of arguing and accomplishing nothing is a true sign of government today. This is why I pulled my child out of this district, children and teachers are on the back burner, board members and administrators are all that really matter. People in this country have become so disgusted by these government officials that it seems we have given up our rights to them, I say send a strong message and vote out those members and bring in the new. Cut the salary of school board members and see who will run, I believe until it is a minimal salary or totally voluntary there will be those that are in it for the CASH.

  29. Flagler Native says:

    Did any of you actually think for a moment that the state run “public” school system as it’s called gave a darn about your kids? LOL It’s all about the almighty dollar. You all should’ve known that. This is all part of Obama’s plan to dumb down America’s youth so he can eventually, bottom out American currency. Books inspire wisdom. Why would the government want wisdom?? So that the kids who grow up can see through the political b.s. and stop it from happening??? I think not! Remember…a dumb generation is a controllable generation that’s how our government sees it. Homeschool your kids and you won’t have to worry about this political, monetary mumbo jumbo, and your kids will get the best education possible. I can’t believe people still put their kids into public school, there’s so many other options. But, I suppose monkey-see, monkey-do.

  30. Cut the cit officials over paid wages says:

    Better yet lets bring in 117 low income housing units, in our TOWN CENTER to produce more income! NOT IS A GOD DAM BURDEN ON OUR COMMUNITY. It will cost us tax payers in the end. Shut down schools! Are you kidding me!! Where are you going to put all these low income welfare collecting peoples’ children! They are costing us money and will destroy our community. COME ON MAYOR AND BIG WIGS GET WITH THE PROGRAM!!! CUTS START AT THE TOP, NOT THE BOTTOM. We want our schools and don’t want these housing projects!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not that they would break a nail and go to work but there is no jobs here for us and now you are planning to recruit more.

  31. Red Rose says:

    You know what, I really don’t like to be threatened that if we don’t pass this tax in June that they will be forced to close a school & cut other programs AND if this happens it will be OUR FAULT. If anyone is interested, Seminole County played the same game & guess what? Increased the tax & they still closed schools. I will really have to rethink my position on this vote in June… stop wasting my money & CUT THE FAT

  32. Ogreagain says:

    I think the school board should follow their no bullying policy. “we’re closeing a school, unless you give use more money.” When push come to shove they’ll make it work with the same money. the taxing has to stop at some point. Vote NO on june 7th

  33. another teacher's perspective says:

    Here’s an idea: Get rid of Flagler Technical Center (“adult ed”) Why do we need that? Daytona State offers all the same programs, and more affordable, too. Why duplicate efforts? Those who drop out and need GED classes, well, all that exists at Daytona State already. Why make cuts on the backs of kids and teachers? There are lots of other alternative training/education programs available for adults and drop-outs. Let those folks be inconvenienced first.

    Also, take a look at “teachers on special assignment.” These are folks being paid teachers salaries who DO NOT TEACH! They do things like help out during testing and the jobs that administrators don’t have time to do. There are several of these positions at both high schools. What about some of the athletic coaches who don’t teach a full-course load, they only teach four or six classes to “free them up” for duties relating to sports? Why don’t they teach 175-200 kids like all the other high school teachers do?

    As far as a “tax increase” most people in this county are really paying less property taxes than they were 5-10 years ago, if truth be told, and THAT is what created this whole mess in the first place! Less taxes = less revenue. Because of the decline in property values, properties were assessed at a lower cost, and so many people have seen their taxes decrease by at least a few hundred dollars, and so many/most pay less than they did back in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Nobody complained when their taxes dropped that much.

    Seriously, what’s $23 per year???? The cost of lunch out? The cost of a video game? Who can’t afford that? This is for the benefit of the kids who will take care of your parents in nursing homes, (or you in nursing homes!) who will be your nurses, your doctors, your CT scanners, your dentists, and more. They need an education. Education doesn’t come cheap. Someone has to pay for lights, a/c, desks, books, pens, pencils, paper, carpeting, water, soap, books, roofs, cafeteria, and so much more.

    The state REQUIRES US to provide certain courses, services and other requirements for all students THEN DOESN’T PROVIDE MONEY TO DO THIS! That’s really not hard to understand. It would be like your boss telling you to perform a task, but not giving you the equipment (or funds!) to do it!

    And why is it that teachers are always be the fall guys??? We have teachers already employed in our district who pay more than $800 per month just for health care insurance, who end up bringing home less than half of what they earn, just to be sure their kids have medical care. Why should teacher salaries be cut AGAIN? See this article from yesterday’s NEW YORK TIMES: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/07/education/teacher-pay-hurt-by-recession-report-says.html?emc=eta1

    Most teachers nationwide have already seen pay cuts in the past four years, and most of us are bringing home way less than we did a few years ago, due to huge increases in insurance costs and inflation.

    I don’t know anyone who likes “tax increase” but honestly, $25???

  34. JB says:

    I’m part of a vast population experiencing fallout from the economic meltdown and thus can relate well to the woes and frustration of attempting to meet shrinking budget resources. A thought crossed my mind while trying to process and compare all the information on the subject: if my income based budget is in a deficit condition, which would I choose to eliminate – my car or my pets? My head says the car would be the more important to keep, but my heart says the pets are part of my family, and I don’t get rid of family. Decisions such as these are heart wrenching at best and ultimately the final catalyst for heart attacks and nervous breakdowns. My stubborn and pig-headed response to my personal situation would be to keep them both, and find a way to provide more income.

    If that is how I feel on the home front, then I have to accept the fact that if I as a parent want my child to have to opportunities afforded to her through the programs and services currently available but dangerously close to the chopping block, I will have to step up and answer the issue in the same manner as I would at home – provide a means to keep them alive.

    Property tax issues are always fodder for heated debates, and I usually fall on the side of total or partial abolishment. I view them as the “legal” equivalent to racketeering, and if the practice were engaged in by private business or individuals they would prosecuted for exactly that. Yes, I’m aware this is an extremist viewpoint, but I blame it on pessimism and “curmudgeonality” invading my otherwise sunny disposition as I grow older, watching my dwindling income being increasingly taxed to fund items that I either don’t use, don’t need, or don’t agree with.

    It is with a rare and great excitement that I can get behind this proposed referendum. It does impact my family directly, I believe in what it is intended for (hopefully it will actually be used for that…remains to be seen…) and if I save my loose change for one month I will be able to fund the additional 10 or 20 dollars a year it will cost me to do so. I also believe that if used as intended it would be a benefit to our community as a whole by keeping in place the programs and items otherwise slated for execution.

    My concern is perpetuating the seemingly standard policy of construing a flawed budget, taking advantage of the premise that the threat of closures and cuts will panic constituents into approving more and more increases. The reckless and self serving cycle of breakdown and quick fix will eventually reach terminal velocity, and the loss of our beloved programs, services and facilities will ultimately be the end result. I sincerely hope that will not be the case when I cast my vote on June 7th.

    The arguments for or against taxes or their increase will always be apparent, we will always fall on one side or the other. There comes a time though, when academic debate must be set aside for a moment to do what is necessary (even if it is a quick fix) to save what we consider important to us, whether it is a program, a facility, a job…a car or a pet. Continue the argument afterward, fix the damn budget, and make new choices so that we don’t have to repeatedly face the same issue.

  35. Bob Z. says:

    In regards to teacher’s compensation, don’t forget they took a 3% pay cut when they had to contribute that amount to their pensions (even though they were told no contributions were required when they were hired), and have not had raises in several years. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for”: do some of you naysayers want to start hiring non-certified, non-degreed teachers, for a lot less compensation, to educate the citizens of tomorrow? And yes, teachers that are not happy with the compensation can go elsewhere, which is what many do after a short period of time as teachers; however, take a look at the data on how much experience teachers in Flagler County have (quite a lot) and the county has excelled in increasing test scores over the years so again, be careful of what some of you are implying and/or asking for.

  36. Billybob says:

    These are the typical scare tactics used whenever a government agency wants voters to vote for paying more taxes. Think how many times you’ve heard “if you don’t vote yes, we will be forced to close fire departments, libraries, cut senior services, and remove law enforcement officers from the streets.” But when the tax doesn’t get voted for somehow they still find a way.

    They play on our emotions and make it sound like “it’s only $22.50 more a year, and you would (essentially) be a bad parent not concerned with your child’s educational future if you allow your child’s school to get closed down.” Don’t fall for for the fear mongering and rhetoric. Vote NO to send a message that the public wants the school board to tighten its belt, like the rest of us have been forced to do for years now.

  37. Bob Bradley says:

    People do not be fooled. Don’t fall for the School Board’s scare tactics. Why do you think the School Board chose a Friday for the election? So that not many voters would vote.

    There are many ways that they can cut from their existing budget. Don’t accept that a tax increase is the only way.

    Bob

  38. Joe E says:

    My child goes to Wadsworth and reads 4-5 books a week, now all she talks about is missing her school and not being able to see her friends. My spouse works at Wadsworth and now we have to worry about how to replace the income.

    I will vote yes on June 7th.
    I will vote when the School Board members are seeking reelection but I won’t be voting yes.

  39. Nancy N. says:

    Any suggestion that the simple solution to all of this is to just close Belle Terre and move all those kids next door to ITMS is pure fantasy. BTES is the district’s largest elementary school, with well over 1300 students. It’s building is busting at the seams. No way could those kids be shoehorned into the ITMS building, which would way more than double the population in that building.

    Wadsworth is by far the smallest of all the elementary schools, with less than 900 students. If they are going to talk about closing one of the regular elementary schools, that could possibly be a target.

  40. Hello? says:

    How about the district planning for future K-8 expansions just two months ago, but did not see this coming? This is all just smoke and mirrors. We need this tax for the kids! But let’s be honest about the spending. Someone should really dig into the financial books and see what’s really going on.

  41. School Worker says:

    Why are people piping off about stuff, when you haven’t a clue? We have a lot of administrators to sort through the various laws, mandates, testing, and other endless paperwork the state of Florida keeps imposing on us. Every single year they cut our budget in one way or another. They demand we meet their ever changing mandates without funding us to do so. Impose new testing, reporting, or other ridicules guidelines. The district is not using scare tactics. These cuts will happen if we don’t get the tax money. Yet despite the fact that we are so underfunded our test scores are high. Our teachers, administrators, and office staff, janitors, bus drivers, food workers. Work very hard, and deal with more than you can imagine. We all wear many hats to make this work.

    You sit on the other side of the fence and complain without ever looking over the fence to see what’s going on. The real problem lies in Tallahassee, not Flagler. I would rather pay 23 extra dollars a year on homeowner taxes than to see one little kid walk to school alone in the dark. Me and my family will be voting yes on this tax increase.

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