Dillingham school board balks on passing budget Monday

Mar 29, 2017

In the face of some public criticism over staffing and retention, school board member Sarah Andrew called for delaying the vote beyond the district's own April 1 policy.

KDLG: The Dillingham City School District failed to pass a budget for next year at its Monday meeting, waiving its April 1 deadline. Board member Sarah Andrew called for the delay, saying she wanted to give more time for public review for the budget first introduced back in December.

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget is approximately $9.2 million dollars, down a little over a hundred thousand dollars from last year.

Several people turned out to speak up against what they claim is the addition of administration positions while cuts are made closer to the classrooms.

“I think you should take a very, very close look at this budget. Enough of the hierarchy at the top," said Rae Belle Whitcomb. “Really consider what’s meaningful to the kids, to their education, to keep and retain teachers."

Superintendent Danny Frazier said in two instances there is no change other than on paper. One involves the elementary school’s current social skills and RTI coordinator position.

“Nick Tweet has earned his administrator’s [degree],” said Frazier. “He is simply asking for the title. His duties will not change. He will still be delivering the social skills classes, and we agreed that he will remain on the teacher’s salary schedule.”

Another instance involves current middle and high school assistant principal Eric Leitz, whose position was added after the budget was finished last year, making it appear as a new position in the FY 18 budget.

“It’s not affecting any instruction, it’s just affecting a title change,” said Frazier.

There has been criticism of a proposal to add a part time superintendent to work under Frazier beginning next year. That idea was generated by the school board, not the superintendent, and board president Chris Napoli explained the reasoning.

“What we’re looking at is a transition with our superintendent. That’s why it’s a .49 position,” said Napoli. “We’re looking at a mentoring program and hopefully have somebody that might be able to take over as the superintendent without spending a lot of money in the hiring search.”

Napoli cited both the city of Dillingham and Nushagak Cooperative as having spent tens of thousands of dollars searching for new managers this year, something the board hopes to spend instead mentoring the district's next top administrator. Frazier has another year on his contract and has not said yet what his plans are after that.

Andrew and recently-appointed school board member Bernina Venua expressed apprehension about taking a vote on the $9.2 million budget. Napoli pointed out that the numbers were likely to be revised at some point, that the budget had been calculated on a conservative estimated enrollment, and that the board’s own policy called for passing a budget by April 1. It is then transferred to city council, which traditionally contributes $1.3 to the district.

Frazier also recommended the board pass the budget.

“We are not necessarily approving the detail of the budget, that can still change. But to have this to the city, and then the city have this done by the timelines, it is my recommendation that we approve this amount,” said Frazier.

“I do not feel ready to entertain that at this time,” said Andrew.

“Ok, is there any additional information that you need?” Napoli asked.

“I can’t think of anything specifically at this time, however I feel like we need to give the public a little more time to review it and provide information on their perspective,” Andrew said.

She and Venua voted to delay the vote. Board members Patty Luckhurst and Corey Arnold were not in attendance.

The board may hold a special meeting early in April to take another vote and get a budget to the city ahead of its May 1 deadline.