By Bill Evans
The temperatures are warming, the sand gnats are out and we are in the middle of lots of testing at the schools; it must be Spring in the Lowcountry! I had the occasion to see Wendy Pollitzer last Friday as we both joined Dr. Zais, State Superintendent of Schools and Rep. Shannon Erickson on a tour of local schools. It is always great to see the fabulous work being done by our students and teachers, but I was reminded that I had not written an update lately so here we are.
Spring is the time when all the preliminary work on budgets begins to take real shape. School district staff along with their counterparts from the county have been working literally all year laying the groundwork for budget presentations. As the School Board, we have worked diligently to reduce the budget; our efforts in February targeting $6.8 million resulted in a real net savings of approximately $5.4 million which was somewhat disappointing as we had eliminated a number of positions and programs that had proven themselves productive. In addition, the tax collection rate projected by the county for the district is short by several percentage points which has meant over $2 million less on the revenue side of our present budget. What does all this mean? It leads us to the inevitable action of having to cut more personnel and programs or to go deeper into our fund balance, possibly endangering our bond rating and ability to borrow at lower interest rates. It also does not paint a very good picture for the future and will take back to a discussion of closing schools for the 2012-13 school year.
On a brighter not, this is also the time when we start to identify many of the real successes of the year academically. Attendance in the Extended Learning Time program continues to climb and in many cases we are seeing students attend who are coming in for enrichment as well as remediation. Our winter MAP scores showed increases in every subtest at the elementary level and in most every level at our middle schools; we are looking forward to some very strong performance coming out of the spring testing. PASS testing starts May 9th, this is the annual state testing for students in grades 3-8; please make sure that your child gets plenty of sleep before these tests. Lastly some individual successes, Ashton Lancaster, Grace Rhodes, Sean Alford Jr., Brandon Clark and Taylor Rabon were all recognized by Duke TIP program and may qualify for special academic programs over the summer; and Marissa Lee, Arlen Ho and Reagan Palmer, all sophomores at Beaufort HS, qualified to attend the prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.
Spring is also a great time to be around the schools watching the many student productions and award programs. I had the great good fortunate to deliver Teacher of the Year Awards to three of our local schools: Mrs. Bacon, 3rd Grade at Ladys Island Elementary, Mrs. Rooney, Art Teacher at Ladys Island Intermediate and Middle and Mrs. Cathy Williams, Pre Kindergarten at Coosa Elementary; other local recognition went to Karen Watts, Kindergarten at St. Helena Elementary and Deborah Kidd, Social Studies at Beaufort HS. It was great to see the surprise on these teachers’ faces and the genuine outburst of cheers from their students! Beaufort High’s recent drama production was well attended and very enjoyable as was the choral concert featuring excepts from Huckleberry Finn; this was Vic Varner’s last concert after a truly outstanding career, he has set a high bar at the school and I am sure the tradition of strong performances will continue. Coming up are dance performances at the high school and numerous events at all of the local elementary and middle schools to close out the school year; of special note is a new program “All Pro Dad” being held May 6th at Coosa Elementary. Whatever the program or the school, take the time to get out there and enjoy the efforts of so many, it such a GREAT time to be in our schools and support our teachers and students.