Albany County School District No. 1 school principals gathered at the Board of Education work session Wednesday to discuss what their teachers told them the district should prioritize while preparing for budget cuts.
In recent weeks, ACSD No. 1 officials discussed how the school district should respond to potential education cuts from the Wyoming Legislature, and the board wanted to see if the school district’s perception of what is important for teachers matched what they actually want.
School district officials made progress lowering the budget by reducing the costs of items such as summer school, new teacher orientation and worker’s compensation but the reductions might not be enough, ACSD No. 1 Business Manager Ed Goetz said. There are several categories the district has tried to bring more money in to but might experience cuts to their funding, he said.
“Non-personnel reductions (such as curriculum and technology might occur), but even then, you still have to have school supplies, curriculum and technology and I don’t see those areas as being ripe for large cuts,” Goetz said. “We have fought to inch those back up in some areas back to semi-reasonable levels, especially in technology and curriculum from past cuts.”
After hearing how the district is attempting to reduce its budget, almost every principal, including Linford Elementary School Principal Dave Hardesty, said their teachers want the school district to continue having professional learning groups. Each week, teachers in the same grade level meet and discuss different ways they could improve their teaching methods, he said.
“They are saying we need to have this collaborative time,” Hardesty said. “It wasn’t all that long ago that when you mentioned you need to spend an hour or two a week collaborating with your peers … and that at least in my experience has lowered considerably to the point where this is now a priority that folks are asking for it.”
Beitel Elementary School Principal Loren Engel said to provide teachers with time during the school day to meet with each other, each class goes to another class — such as art, music or physical education — called specials.
“That is easy to say but the detail underneath all that are the people that drive that and make it work,” Engel said. “What that speaks to is specialists and other staff that we put in place with kids so three third grade teachers can be at the same place at the same time having an instructional conversation without having to worry about their kids.”
Having specials for students also keeps them interested in school, especially when they are struggling in other subjects such as reading and math but maybe excel at art or music, Spring Creek Principal Liann Brenneman said.
“The teachers were very clear that specials are not just important for the collaboration time, specials are important for what they offer the whole child,” Brenneman said. “Classroom teachers at the elementary level are not capable of teaching art, music and PE, and sometimes those are the hooks that the teachers have to keep those kids passionate about school.”
Several of the principals, such as Engel, said their teachers told them they would agree to an increase in their class size as long as they were able to keep the specials and the professional learning groups.
“Class size in this discussion is really what moves the needle, what I heard my people say, in general terms, is budgets based on larger class sizes in favor of things such as this would be alright,” he said. “When I pressed people on what a reasonable number is to them if they can’t have all these things anymore, more was OK as long as conversation was clear that we are buying this as opposed to this.”