Evansville seeks community input on future of schools
"It's been really encouraging to hear their (residents') perspective of how well the school and the community interact," said Kathi Swanson, school board president. "That's been a very nice, positive thing to hear."
Seeking public input is part of the district's strategic planning process, which already has included staff input, she said.
The two-hour public meetings seek direction for the district in the next five to 10 years.
"What do we want our schools to look like in the future, and then how do we get there? What are our priorities?" Swanson said.
In the first two sessions, community members brought up a wide range of ideas, she said.
The district is working with a facilitator who trained officials to run the focus groups. Each group includes at least one administrator, board member and teacher. All data will help guide the board to write a detailed action plan through early next year.
Administrator Heidi Carvin is starting each meeting with a presentation on the status of the district, which faces a $687,400 deficit this year.
The board plans to close the gap using money from the district's fund balance.
The deficit includes savings the district realized when its unions settled new contracts in February that included employee contributions of 5 percent of health insurance premiums and half of retirement costs.
Cuts this year included three teaching positions and filling one position with a part-time position for a total savings of about $275,000. Administrators also face a salary freeze and are contributing toward their benefits.
The district tax rate would increase about 2.7 percent, according to rough estimates, Carvin said. The board will hold the annual budget meeting Monday, Oct. 24, and the budget should be published in the coming days.
Carvin said the projected deficit for 2012-13 would be at least $650,000.
"I think the strategic planning process helps us educate the community about the different things impacting our budget. It should give us pretty clear direction on what to protect if we need to make further cuts," she said.
Carvin and Swanson said parents also have expressed more interest in alternative schools within the district than the two expected.
IF YOU GO
The Evansville School District wants to hear what community members think is going well or needs improvement in the schools.
A series of two-hour focus group meetings are set to hear about the vision residents have for the future of the district as it creates a five-to-10 year strategic plan.
The meetings are planned:
-- 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 13, at Theodore Robinson Intermediate School library, 420 S. 4th St. Use the back entrance at the back parking lot facing Fair Street. Child care is provided.
-- 8:45 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Creekside Place, 102 Maple St. Continental breakfast served.
-- 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Creekside Place. Light lunch served.
-- 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20, at J.C. McKenna Middle School cafeteria, 307 S. 1st St.