The Ketchikan School Board continued its discussion about proposed state budget cuts to public education during Wednesday’s regular meeting.
“I think we got a pretty substantial report from the superintendent and our business manager and how grim it would be if the current proposed budget actually becomes real,” said Board Member Diane Gubatayao, referring to some calculations that show the Ketchikan School District would receive about $6.4 million less in state funding next fiscal year under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget.
Board President Matt Eisenhower noted that the proposed level of cuts is the equivalent of 70 teaching positions, or every support-staff position in the district.
“Additionally you note that we could cut every single non-personnel-related item out of our current general fund budget and we’d still have an additional $2.34 million in cuts to make to absorb,” he said.
Board members encouraged the public to contact state lawmakers with concerns and input about the budget. They also talked about ways to get the district’s message out to more people.
The board discussed setting up a table during an upcoming children’s health fair, and providing materials for residents to give constituent input. A formal resolution from the board also was considered, although Eisenhower pointed out that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly is working on a joint resolution for the community.
The board does plan to send representatives to Juneau to lobby legislators. Eisenhower suggested that a student join the trip.
“When I sit down with our representatives or other people, they hear me,” he said. “When I sit down potentially with a student, it just takes on a different level of urgency.”
A motion to fund those travel expenses to Juneau will come back to the board in March.
Also Wednesday, the board talked about the district’s no-cell-phone policy. Two Revilla Alternative School students spoke during public comment and said that listening to music on their phones, with ear-buds, helps limit distracting sounds. At Revilla, students work independently through computer-based curriculum.
The students asked the board to consider letting individual schools determine a cell-phone policy that works for those school environments.
Board Member Sonya Skan said she understands the students’ concerns.
“One of my grandchildren, she has a lot of problems focusing. And if she’s listening to music she can focus and do her work,” Skan said. “So, I did hear that very loud and clear and I know that’s something that a lot of kids do utilize so they can focus.”
She asked whether the district could explore building some flexibility into the policy. Superintendent Beth Lougee says the district is working on that policy already, and plans to survey students.
In other matters, the board briefly talked about the resignation of Board Member Glen Thompson.
In his Feb. 25th letter announcing his decision, Thompson writes that: “Since the recent election, it has become apparent to me that my priorities do not align well with the new board.”
Thompson adds that he appreciates the opportunity to serve the community over the years. He was elected to a three-year term the Ketchikan School Board in 2017. He previously served on the borough assembly.
Eisenhower said the letter of resignation was received too late for the board to take action on Wednesday. The board will formally vote to accept Thompson’s resignation during the next meeting.