School board holds first reading of budget, celebrates journalism students

The Edmonds School District’s draft 2023-2024 budget was read publicly for the first time at the board’s business meeting June 27, although only one person — Sheryl Passarge — spoke during a public hearing about it. That was in stark contrast to the massive crowd of concerned community members who protested proposed cuts in April.

Sheryl Passarge speaks against the reduced education plan.

“I’ve have heard it said: ‘Stay in the school district long enough and you can do your job and five other peoples’!’ This is not good news,” Passarge said. “(Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources) Rob Baumgartner said ‘It is always our goal to reduce as little as possible. But why is there a ‘reduced education’ program on the table when there isn’t even a reduced school office personnel on the table instead, first?”

The budget itself is broad – listing spending categories rather than specific expenses. A more detailed document, called the reduced education plan, for how the budget will affect staffing was also released, though it does not reflect changes made later in April that allowed the district to cut fewer teaching positions than initially planned (from 46.55 to 32.05 full-time positions). The plan’s implementation will vary by school, so programs and educational programming at each school will be affected differently. 

The board lessened the impact of the initially proposed budget reductions by pulling funding from the district’s annual unassigned fund balance, which generally accounts for at least 4% of the budget and is used to plan for contingencies. This was against school board policy, and directors have indicated they will not be able to do the same thing next year. If enrollment numbers continue to decline, as they are projected to, the district will need to make additional cuts for the 2024-2025 school year. 

Board President Nancy Katims stated that the board was aware that schools weren’t staffed as sufficiently as they should be and recommended people actively advocate for additional school funding by contacting their state legislators

Board President Nancy Katims thanked the Edmonds City Council for allocating some of the city’s ARPA funds to offset staffing reductions .

In other budget-related items, Katims thanked the Edmonds City Council for unanimously voting to use $210,000 of the city’s ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to provide student intervention coordinators to three Edmonds elementary schools. The Lynnwood Human Services Commission made a similar request to the Lynnwood City Council, speaking to the council in May about using $219,623 for mental health staffing in Lynnwood schools. That item never came before the council for a vote. 

Superintendent Rebecca Miner thanked the Edmonds Principals Association, Manager Association and Professional-Technical Group for giving back some of their entitlements to free up additional funding for the upcoming year. 

11th grader Seras Bryner (Center), 10th graders Curtis Gilchrist and Kimberly Nguyen pose with their teacher Vince DeMiero, surrounded by Edmonds School District board members.

In other business, Mountlake Terrace High School journalism teacher Vince DeMiero and his journalism students attended to celebrate their recent First Amendment Press Freedom Award. This marks the 10th straight year and the 13th time overall that Mountlake Terrace High School’s journalism program has received this honor. 

Later, the board passed a project funded by a voter-approved levy in 2020 that will bring “much-needed” improvements to Mountlake Terrace High School, including new lighting and replacing the grass and drainage system with artificial turf and cork infill at both the softball and soccer fields. The board of directors also approved another levy-funded project: Seismic upgrades to the former Alderwood Middle School building, which will be used as an interim campus during the construction of the new Oak Heights Elementary school.

Finally, the board considered updates for the district’s Family Language Access Plan and language changes to various policies and also acknowledged Pride Month. 

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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