Ketchikan School District Superintendent Robert Boyle touted district accomplishments and fielded questions during Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Boyle began with a presentation on the district’s mission and strategic plan. He says main focus areas include providing relevant, data-driven instruction; providing a safe environment that fosters success; and making facilities available to the community.
Boyle says money is the biggest challenge facing the school district. He says two bills introduced by the Senate Finance Committee at the end of March would negatively affect the school district if passed.
“What 207 does, it transfers the state’s responsibility for the Teachers’ Retirement System payment – state owned, state devised, state managed, state mandated – we can’t do anything about it. They’ve transferred fiscal responsibility for part of that, and they’re going to increase transferring that over the next five years to the school district.”
Boyle says if those bills pass, the cost to the school district would be about $876,000. He says the district would either have to make cuts or come up with another way to pay for the additional expense.
“That means I have to go to the borough and ask for more money. That means it comes out of your pocket. The senate has transferred a property tax payment to you. So 207, if you don’t follow it, that’s what’s happening.”
The approved FY2017 school district budget includes approximately $880,000 in unfunded positions and programs. Boyle says if Senate Bill 207 passes, more positions will need to be cut and all activities eliminated. Boyle was asked if he believes the drop-out rate would increase if vocational programs and activities were completely eliminated. He says students have testified to the School Board that they would drop out if those programs weren’t available. Boyle says there also would be a loss of community.
“You know how much the community is out and about and engaged with our students. But what you learn as a participant in those activities and how you carry that into how you behave as an adult, I think are real things also. Just as concrete as math, you learn teamwork; collaboration; competitiveness, when it’s appropriate; and sportsman-like civil behavior.”
While budget concerns dominated much of Wednesday’s discussion, Boyle also spoke about the district’s successes. Those include multiple state and national awards and recognitions. He says in 2015, more than $6 million in scholarships were offered to graduating seniors.