The Bozeman School Board voted Monday to eliminate two more jobs as part of its budget balancing, but Superintendent Kirk Miller said despite facing more than $1 million in budget cuts, the school district should end up even stronger next year.
"Absolutely," Miller said at the end of the School Board meeting, explaining it's all a matter of setting priorities. "The goal is improving student learning."
The budget for next year calls for hiring about six more teachers for the elementary and middle schools, which expect 168 additional students next year. Miller said hiring those teachers would keep class sizes from exceeding the state's accreditation standards and improve learning.
In addition, the district plans to hire four more teaching coaches - two at the elementary schools and two at the high school - who will work closely in classrooms with teachers who are looking for better ways to help their students learn. District administrators see instructional coaches as a stronger way to do teacher training or professional development than the old method of sending teachers to hear an expert's lecture or workshop, without giving much help in applying the expert's ideas in the classroom.
"We're believing that embedding professional development is going to up us in the best position to ... enrich student learning," Miller said.
School Board trustees said they are grateful to Bozeman voters, who overwhelmingly approved tax levies on the May 3 ballot. The levies will raise $325,000 for the schools next year.
However, Bozeman schools still face a budget shortfall of $1.4 million. That's because the 2011 Legislature gave schools an inflationary increase next year of just 1 percent, which will replace only half the federal stimulus dollars schools had previously.
To balance the budget, school officials plan several cuts and some use of one-time-only money. The board voted Monday to cut to half time the curriculum coordinator's administrative job and to eliminate the job of the "504 coordinator," who works with students with temporary disabilities. Also to be cut are four teaching or counseling jobs and extra chemistry lab classes at Bozeman High.
"There are some painful changes, but (the high school budget) is balanced," said Steve Johnson, assistant superintendent for business.
The biggest source of one-time money that will be used to balance the budget is $500,000 from a "transition" tax levy that voters approved two years ago to help pay the costs of opening new Hyalite School. Miller said the temporary tax has ended, but not all the money has been spent, in part because the school is still hiring teachers as it grows from 400 students this year to its full capacity of 520 students.
Teachers are voting on another key piece of the budget - their proposed contract for next year. It would give raises of just under 1 percent, but the entire contract would cost the district 2.1 percent, or $515,000.
In other action Monday:
--District Court Judge Holly Brown swore in incumbent trustees Heide Arneson and Gary Lusin and newcomer Dan Swanson to three-year terms. All three were unopposed in last week's election and so were elected by acclamation, as allowed by state law.
--The board unanimously reelected Trustee Denise Hayman has chair, Trustee Bruce Grubbs as vice chair and Johnson as district clerk.
The board thanked trustees Sue MacGrath and Wendy Tage for organizing Lincolns for Levies, a political action committee that promoted passage of the tax levies. Tage thanked Tami Phillippi, teachers' union president, for helping form the group.
Superintendent Miller thanked departing Trustee Martha Collins for her "great, great passion for kids and tenacity doing the right thing for taxpayers."
Gail Schontzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2633.