The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board met in regular session last night. During the lightly attended meeting, the Board addressed financial transparency and other issues in preparation for the upcoming school year.
The Board spent some time discussing its policy of reporting donations to the District, specifically the activities program.
District Business Manager Matt Groves told the Board he thought the usually quiet summer session would be a good time to discuss policies and procedures. The ensuing conversation explored government and financial transparency in Ketchikan, as well as how the School District’s office is staffed.
Board Member Michelle O’Brien argued against changing current Board policy.
“I’m in total agreement that transparency is extremely important,” said O’Brien, “but conversely one of the Board’s goals is to involve the community.”
As it stands, the Board is required to approve gifts made to the School District as a whole, but not necessarily to specific programs, such as sports. Groves asked the Board to clarify whether those donations also should be reported, as the majority of donations are made to the activities program and not to the district at large. Groves suggested that only monetary donations require Board approval, or only monetary donations above a certain amount.
O’Brien strongly recommended that donations to the activities program not be reported. She says not only would that place undue burden on the Business Office, but requiring gifts to be publicly reported might alienate donors in Ketchikan.
“I agree it should be publicly reported,” said O’Brien. “But I’m not quite sure how you do this without having an adversarial relationship with the community that’s providing these generous donations.”
The Board didn’t make any decisions on that issue.
On another topic, Superintendent Robert Boyle painted an optimistic picture of the School District’s budget. Contrary to widely-publicized fears earlier this year of potential cuts, the District will move into the next fiscal year with a reserve of more than $300,000.
Boyle told the Board that Secure Rural Schools, a federal program that supplies the District with hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, will most likely be extended for another year. Officials on both the Borough Assembly and School Board had assumed that program would end due to tense budget negotiations in Washington, D.C.
Megan Moskowitz, a spokeswoman for the Senate Natural Resources Committee that oversees Secure Rural Schools, confirmed to KRBD that funding for the program has been attached to another bill in Congress. That bill, known as the Helium Stewardship Act, oversees reserves of that gas within the United States.
Moskowitz describes the legislative road ahead for the Helium Stewardship Act.
“This bill did pass the committee in mid June and is now waiting to go to the full Senate,” says Moskowitz. “So if and when it passes the full Senate, it would provide the funding. We’re hoping it will be done in the next few months.”
The Board also approved three teaching contracts, and another contract for a school psychologist. The District now is fully staffed for the upcoming school year.