2014-15 Budget Message
The guiding principle for the 2014-15 budget development has been cautious and strategic reinvestment. While the increased funding and partial relief from PERS increases that were provided by the 2013 Legislature do not allow a return to pre-recession staffing and programming levels, they have put us in a position of positive pro-active planning for the future. It remains difficult to fully grasp the depth of cuts and reductions we have made in recent years at Bend-La Pine Schools. Our commitment is to do whatever is possible to provide learning opportunities our students deserve and the teaching conditions our teachers need to prepare students for their futures.
Our student population continues to increase. We are projecting growth of approximately 200 students for a total of more than 17,000 students enrolled in our schools for 2014-15. We will begin construction this spring and summer on two new schools to address the instructional space needs of our students and staff. This budget is designed to also provide better support for the instructional tools and supplies to meet those future needs.
The academic achievements of our students and staff continue at unprecedented levels. We are very proud that more than 92% of our schools received ratings of "4" or "5" on Oregon's new five-point scale of reporting on school success. An increasing percentage of our graduates are prepared, pursuing, and succeeding in post-high school education and our graduation rate continues to climb.
The proposed budget includes restoration of nearly forty teaching and nine support and administrative staff positions over the 2013-14 budget. This will allow for improvement in student-teacher ratios primarily at the high school level, but some at all levels, and cover the projected growth in student numbers. It will also support improved staffing for our more vulnerable special education and limited English speaking populations. The proposed budget also increases school improvement funding at the high school level and supports experiential education for 5th graders. With the proposed budget, we will maintain our music and PE specialists at elementary schools, add Career and Technical Education offerings at high school, while supporting a comprehensive education at all levels that includes activities and athletics.
During 2013-14 we launched a pilot project in eight of our schools for moving to greater dependence on digital curricular content and integration of technology tools for teaching and learning. iPads were distributed to 3rd through 12th grade students and teachers in the selected schools for this first phase of the "digital conversion". Although complete results are not yet in, it is clear that the importance of this effort for the future of our students is high. The proposed budget supports moving to the second phase of a three-year roll-out and five-year implementation strategy. The 2014-15 phase will support completion of implementation of the science adoption at 6th grade and high school levels. We also propose implementation of the first portion of our English-Language Arts adoption, the new writing curriculum at elementary grades.
Student safety remains a huge priority for Bend-La Pine Schools. The proposed budget, through our partnerships with Bend Police Department and the Deschutes County Sheriffs Office, will provide for a fifth School Resource Officer in our schools. Others areas of enhancing safety are also targeted in this budget.
The proposed budget has been developed to support each of the strategic investment priorities adopted by the School Board in its current Comprehensive Plan for World Class Schools. Resources are committed strategically in order to increase success for every student with the following priorities at the center:
Early and ongoing literacy
Success of English Language Learners
Integrated digital learning
Comprehensive, relevant, and rigorous curriculum
Access to student activities and athletics
This proposed budget meets the requirements of Bend-La Pine Schools Board Governance Policy BDGOV A.3 Financial Planning and Budgeting. I believe this proposed budget reflects our purpose of Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen. Bend-La Pine Schools is well on its way to becoming the best school district in Oregon, thanks to hard work and the support of our student, parents, staff and community.
We thank our community for its continued support of Bend-La Pine Schools.
Ron Wilkinson, Superintendent