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School budget: Starting over

To give a voice to more people in the community, the South Whidbey Board of Education approved the formation of a new budget advisory committee at Monday night's meeting.

This committee will include community members, teachers, and other interested district personnel. It will effectively disband an existing group of district administrators who had been meeting for the past two months to meet a May 15 deadline to notify teachers of possible layoffs. Those layoffs have since been taken off the table.

Mike Moore, the district's business manager, will facilitate the new budgeting group.

"We expect to have 18 to 20 members, six or so from the community who will be recommended by the PTA, and director Jim Adsley will represent the board on the committee," he said.

Final selection and approval of other members is expected at the May 28 board meeting.

The original committee did come up with budget cutting suggestions that have received a good deal of attention from the board and district administrators and employees over the past few weeks. An itemized list totaling $853,823 came out of the group's work. New committee members will use that list and will look at other areas of possible reduction, as well as ways to increase efficiency.

Moore says he is hoping for a two-year commitment from those who are interested in joining.

"There will be a real learning curve for members to learn how a school district is funded, what generates money," he said.

Other members of the committee will be representatives from each school building, a principal, teachers and two from the bargaining units.

The administrative committee was an emergency group formed to react to the deadline to notify teachers of potential layoffs. Some discontent was voiced by teachers and others that there wasn't broad enough representation on the committee. To counter that, many teachers and community members sent e-mails and letters to the board.

"We received suggestions from a lot of people but just didn't have time to respond to them," Moore said. "This new process will allow for feedback."

The administrative committee was comprised of principals from every building, two assistant principals, assistant superintendent Dan Blanton, director of special services Diane Watson, Bayview High School administrator Diane Moondancer, Shared Schooling Cooperative representative Nancy Thompson, and district department heads.

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