Week of: February 3, 2014
You probably remember that in the spring of 2011, Leander ISD, along with the majority of Texas public school districts, discussed at great length how the Texas Legislature significantly reduced our budgets. In LISD, we faced about $22 million in cuts (and were restored only about $5 million in the last legislative session). That spring, the district gathered feedback from staff, parents and stakeholders and identified areas where we could reduce our expenses. It was a challenging process, but our fantastic community came together, worked hard and reworked processes to ensure we continued to offer a high quality education for our students, while significantly tightening our financial belt.
When we made cuts in 2011, we made the minimum reductions to get us to the next budget year, relying on our fund balance, which functions similar to a household’s savings account, to supplement in some places. Our Board of Trustees wisely planned ahead by building up our fund balance so that the district could sustain, for as long as possible, services that we knew were great for students. We made this decision because we believed, and still believe, it was and is best for student learning.
But, just like your family’s budget, relying on savings is not a sustainable strategy. District leadership has been working with the Board to design a multi-year approach that will reduce our overall budget, while eliminating our reliance on our fund balance. Declining state funding has led us to look at all areas of how we operate in order to continue to deliver the highest quality education, and now the district is implementing a few changes to our system as the next part of this multi-year approach.
The system-wide restructuring for the next school year includes:
- Tightening administrative efficiencies by eliminating a few central office positions.
- Restructuring the delivery method for the Elementary Fine Arts TEKS (state curriculum). After researching how other districts deliver the Elementary Fine Arts TEKS, we developed a plan that will now include two broad strands, Visual Arts and Performing Arts (music and theater arts combined). Previously, we had three strands. This restructuring enables the district to reassign some current elementary fine arts teachers to other areas and reduce the number of additional staff needed as we grow and open more schools, while eliminating a full-time position at every elementary campus. Elementary librarians will now be a part of the specials rotation, giving students additional instructional time in information literacy, digital citizenship, research and inquiry. Fortunately, because of our continued student enrollment growth, no teachers will lose employment with this change.
- Modifying the class schedules at the middle schools by increasing the pupil/teacher ratios in order to eliminate the number of positions needed to fill the schedules. Like our elementary schools, no teachers will lose their jobs with these changes.
- Combining some administrative responsibilities and adjusting the pupil/teacher ratios at the high schools without teachers losing employment.
Please know that these decisions were not ones that were easy to make, but given the constraints on our budget, we are now in a situation where we have to find efficiencies in everything. We believe that a multi-year approach of reducing our dependence on our fund balance is the best way to serve students because there are still a lot of unknowns: LISD is continuing to grow, the school finance lawsuits are back in full swing, and the Legislature will meet again in 2015, and no one knows what will happen when they get together.
As always, I remain committed to communicating with you honestly and as promptly as possible so we can navigate through these tough financial times. I am thankful for the feedback, recommendations, and time and energy that so many of our parents, staff and community members have provided as we move forward.