Volume 104, Number 8 - February 22, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Pinedale school superintendent relates worries, ambitions to Chamber of Commerce
On Feb. 15, Sublette County School District 1 Superintendent Doris Woodbury spoke at the Marbleton Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon regarding future plans, goals and challenges facing Sublette County public education. The chief topic of discussion was Amendment B, the recently passed ballot initiative that will force school districts with excess recaptured tax dollars, typically found in mineral-rich areas like Sublette County, to give their extra money back to the state.
Woodbury said, while the district remained hopeful it could defeat the measure, it has begun to consider its post-Amendment B budget. Operating under the Picus model, which allocates state funds for Wyoming schools, district 1 will have an $11 million operating budget for next year. Woodbury also said Pinedale’s school breakfast and lunch program, which provides 50 cent meals to all students, cost $500,000 per year alone.
“I just don’t think we’ll be able to support that on the same level as before,” she said. Sublette County’s population growth also worried Woodbury. This school year, Woodbury claimed, the number of students grew by 13 percent. Based on previous growth and proposed subdivisions the district is predicting a 10 percent increase in student population over the next year.
Before the passage of Amendment B, school district 1 planned to build several facilities to house the growing student population, including new elementary and middle schools and an addition to the high school. However, the district expects to lose $25 million in the budget for construction and teacher pay.
Pinedale schools’ populations currently weigh in at 391 students in the elementary school, and about 270 students in both the high school and middle school, Woodbury stated.
She also said some of the students have “very minimal English skills,” and require English as a Second Language instruction. Woodbury said Wyoming public schools are required to provide ESL instruction to foreign language speaking students, but the state does not provide funding for these programs. The 14 non-native English speaking students are largely Spanish speakers, but Woodbury said district 1 educates a native Chinese and a native Ukranian speaker as well.
Amendment B might also threaten programs like education for gifted and talented students, and instructional coaches, who help teachers craft effective lesson plans for particular subjects, Woodbury said.
District 1 has hired a constitutional attorney, Mark Gifford, to fight some of the amendment’s requirements, Woodbury claimed. The districts plan to challenge the amendment on the grounds it would force them to renege on building and construction contracts, which violates a law that bars the state legislature from passing a law that invalidates previously made contractual agreements.
Despite the threat Amendment B poses to Sublette school district spending, Woodbury said the district 1 is planning several initiatives. Pinedale schools will aim to improve student performance in reading, writing and math. Woodbury also hopes to beef up the schools’ career vocational offerings. In a town where real estate is at a premium, Woodbury said the district planned to buy property to be used for teacher housing. It currently owns three properties.
While its building initiatives might be short-circuited by the imposition of Amendment B, Woodbury said her district would consider buying property for future developments. It owns two 10-acre parcels by Redstone and in Bargerville, and Woodbury reported that district representatives have contacted the Pinedale Planning and Zoning Board and asked developers to set aside green space near future subdivisions. If the largest proposed subdivision, which would contain 1,000 lots, is realized, the district envisions 500 children enrolling in Pinedale schools.
“We’re kind of sweating and watching that very closely,” Woodbury said. The district will also continue to implement disciplinary procedures. Woodbury said Pinedale schools were working on establishing a formal attendance policy. They would also continue to perform random drug testing on students.
Tom Johnson, who has a daughter in the ninth grade, praised a program the school has created that allows him to find out immediately if his child’s grade dips below 75 in any class or if she is tardy.
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