Oakville School district Announcing a Change in Leadership and Direction

from the September 2007 edition of The Oakville Cruiser

By Eldon Lonborg, Oakville School District Interim Superintendent

As some of you know, the District has struggled financially in recent times. This problem has increased dramatically over the past two fiscal years which run from September through August. The chart below shows ending fund balances for the past four ears and the projected ending balance for the current year. The drop this past year has been extraordinary.

President Harry Truman had a sign over his desk saying "The buck stops here." The same holds true for a school superintendent. As the School Board became aware that the fiscal results promised in the current budget would not be delivered, they determined that a change in leadership and direction were necessary.

As a result, I agreed in mid-July to serve as Interim Superintendent for a period not to exceed a year to allow for a proper search for a permanent replacement.

On the day I assumed the job, the State Superintendent's office (OSPI) sent a letter to the District advising us that a monitor has been appointed to oversee our finances until we get our house in order. I regard that as a prudent step for the State office to take under the circumstances.

My first priority is to get our finances back in order. During the 2006-2007 fiscal year, which ends on August 3 1, we are projected to spend roughly $300,000 in excess of revenues. We are working to hold our spending as low as we can, but the projection will not be wildly off. Because we began the year with virtually no reserves, that means that we will end the year with significant debt. Both common sense and the OSPI direction dictate a radical reduction in expenditures for 20072008. In addition, we must make significant progress on paying back the debt we have incurred.

As we work to cut expenditures, we must consider spending plans and commitments already made by the previous superintendent. Some are legally binding. For example, we will have to transfer roughly $18,000 of General Fund money to the District's Transportation Vehicle Fund to help pay for a bus that has already been delivered. Many other plans, such as continuing to pay for overseas travel , are scrapped. While they reflected Mr. Metke's strong personal commitment, they are not affordable and their financing was not properly addressed with the Board and the community in advance. As we go through the year, we will continually look for areas where expenditures can be cut with minimal impact on educational programs.

Despite the financial challenges we face, we are committed to improving the basic education programs we offer. Our staff is stepping up to meet these challenges.

Sheryl O'Brian will continue to serve as K3 Principal and to teach part-time, in addition to her other duties.

Middle School Principal Tom Phimister, who also taught part-time last year, will drop his teaching duties and pick up Kevin Acuff's duties as High School Principal. (As many of you know, Kevin has been named Principal of Elma High School.)

Since we can only replace three of the five staff members who left at the secondary level, Tom faces a real challenge to make schedules work properly for students. I have known Tom for a long time, and I am confident that he is up to the task. By the time this article is published, I expect to have the three new teachers under contract. Particularly given the fact that we are nearing the end of the hiring season, I am pleased with the quality of applicants.

Both of the circumstances our faculty face and my own style of leadership mean that our efforts will be focused much closer to home this coming year. Fortunately, we are finding excellent opportunities to work together.

We have met with the leadership of the Oakville Education Association and have made real progress toward arriving at a long-awaited contract. We appreciate the restraint that the Association is showing based on the District's financial situation. I am personally committed to improving our communication with parents and others involved in our students' education. I am excited to see this commitment mirrored elsewhere in the community.

For example, the Chehalis Tribe is currently spending significant resources on educational programs and offers their services to all of our students. We will be working closely together this year to make this offer as effective as possible.

We will do everything we can to make 2007-2008 a successful one for our students. It will require a high degree of cooperation and the upper level school population working together to find inexpensive ways to achieve excellent results. This is a good hands on lesson for students to learn early; operating on the strictest of budgets. Neither is it a unique one for present students.

As the OHS class of 2008 graduates next spring, my class, the OHS class of 1958, will celebrate its 50th reunion.

During our senior year, the District saw a good deal of turmoil. While those were challenging times, I believe that my class learned valuable lessons as a result. The District will bend every effort to turn our present challenges into opportunities for learning and growth for our students.



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