“New year, new me” may be a rallying motto to inspire resolutions, but for the Sedona-Oak Creek School District, it’s new year, more of the same.
At its first Governing Board meeting of the year Tuesday, Jan. 9, one of the first orders of business was to vote in a president and vice president for 2018. In unanimous votes, the board re-elected current President Randy Hawley and Vice President Heather Hermen to those posts.
“I’m looking forward to this year; I think we’ve put together some good work this past year, and we’ve got some very positive things going,” Hawley said. “... I’d like to thank you for your confidence.”
Same song, different verse — echoing talk around the district, finance director Heather Shaw-Burton discussed how falling enrollment is causing a dip in state funding, putting next year’s budget in a tight spot.
During her report introducing budget information for the 2018-19 school year, Shaw-Burton expressed that one of the district’s goals is to raise teachers’ salaries. However, doing so for the next fiscal year, and maintaining current health insurance benefits will put those costs at about $6.4 million, or 92 percent of the district’s projected budget of about $7 million. But its non-negotiable expenses — utilities, liability insurance and the like — cost about $1.5 million.
The problem is apparent: As it stands, next year’s projected budget is nearly $995,000 in the red. Even if the district freezes salaries and restructures insurance subsidies by providing vision and dental a la carte, it will still be $746,000 over budget.
“Each year we do continue to be able to work together to solve these problems,” Shaw-Burton said. “The district really has a great team and leadership that has been able to solve these problems year after year.”
To this end, the district is forming a salary task force of teachers to “collaborate, research and analyze salary schedules that promote equality within budget constraints.” The group will meet starting Jan. 23 with the intent to present salary solutions to the Governing Board by the end of March, before contracts are finalized and approved in April.
And change is on the horizon. A brief but noteworthy item on the board’s agenda regarded the next steps toward finding a new superintendent following current Superintendent Dave Lykins’ retirement this coming June. The board unanimously approved its contract with the Arizona School Boards Association, which is facilitating the superintendent search, as well as the position announcement and application, which ASBA will post this week.
The board is also soliciting feedback from the community regarding the next superintendent. A survey asks stakeholders what qualities they would like to see in the next superintendent, as well as what the district’s strengths and weaknesses are.
The survey is posted on the school district’s website and will be live through Jan. 29. It is open to all stakeholders, including teachers, parents, students and community members and is in both English and Spanish.
The board will next meet Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at the district office.