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At the May 15, 2024 Community Forum, South Whidbey School District School Board and Administration took questions from the community. Here are the questions and answers provided. 

Q: What are the top priorities when the district is talking to the legislature?
A: Special Ed funding, increasing funding for MSOC (Materials, Supplies, and Operating Costs) to match actual cost increases, Transition to Kindergarten program, Levy lid/bond requirements. Reminding legislature that the current school funding model doesn’t provide an appropriate level of funding for many districts in Washington, including South Whidbey.

Q: Is there an opportunity for community involvement in speaking with the legislature?
A: Nurturing relationships with representatives between sessions. Engage with board to talk about what your priorities are. Reinforce the district’s priorities once they’ve worked to guide them. 

Q: What positions were non-renewed this year?
A: Only provisional or non-continuing teachers. Most of those were hires to replace folks on leave.

Q: Are we not properly funded for what we need to do? What would be adequate funding?
A: We are funded based on the number of students we have, and then based on that, we are funded for what a “prototypical” school should need for that enrollment. That’s altered by regionalization to provide for cost of living, but our regionalization has gone down each year while the cost of living here has gone up. Our revenues have been stagnant, while our expenditures have gone up. Levy cap has limited the amount of funding we can collect via levies as well (about a million dollars per year).

Adequate would be what it takes to lower class sizes and provide more music/art/athletics/enrichment opportunities. Adequate would be fully funding special education, transportation, and food service. Adequate would be funding unfunded mandates (e.g. paid days off).

Q: How do we get information from the legislature to the school board to the community so that we can help apply pressure on them?
A: We report at board meetings and are happy to meet with community members.

Q: How do we get more community input at meetings/with the school?
A: We’re looking for ways to bring people in to engage – including meetings like this. We’re hoping that we can have a weekend meeting like this in the fall to reach a different audience. A community member noted that the nonprofits they’re engaged with are having problems getting community engagement as well.

Q: Why don’t we record retreats?
A: Retreats are typically professional development opportunities for the board, so they haven’t been recorded in the past. We can certainly discuss recording them going forward.

Q: Do you track and publicize how many people attend meetings online?
A: The board chair tries to mention how many folks are online when he remembers, but doesn’t always remember. We do not track or publicize attendance numbers either in-person or online.

Q: Does the school board desire more people attending school board meetings?
A: We appreciate the participation that we do get. We would love more public participation, particularly at board workshops to discuss policy and presentations.

Community member suggestion for childcare – parents are tired and don’t have time for participation and child rearing and self-care.

Q: What have the savings on the single bus route been so far?
A: We don’t have the exact numbers, but in general, the savings have been what was expected. It has also helped us be able to bring staff together for joint training across all programs.

Q: Has the addition of electric buses provided financial benefit?
A: It’s too soon to tell for South Whidbey. From other districts, we’ve heard that a diesel bus costs about $3/mile, while an electric bus costs about $0.60/mile.

Q: Is there a way to help with the nation-wide problem of primary-level bullying and make sure that students feel safe through policy? Could that affect enrollment?
A: It’s definitely something that the board has been looking at and continues to look at from a policy level, including reaching out to other boards to see what they’re doing. The best way would be to get more behavioral specialists/mental health professionals in schools. Getting money to give more training to paras/teachers – particularly subs – would be fantastic (as mentioned by a community member). State funding covers 2 paras for the entire elementary school – we have 24, mostly paid via levy dollars.

Q: How will we ensure that students are safe with the staffing reductions?
A: We made staffing reductions as far away from students as possible. We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that everyone is as safe and well-educated as possible.

Q: How can the district increase enrollment?
A: Enrollment as a percentage of school-aged children in the district is at a generational high, but the district continues to look for opportunities to help families get access to the resources of public schooling. The ALE program is one example program that has brought new students to the district.

Community Forum Flyer