School board: City contributions discussed
The Nome Public Schools Board of Education met for a regular meeting on Tuesday, October 10. Newly elected board members were sworn-in, tensions between the city and school district regarding budget contributions were discussed and NPS’ Strategic Equity Framework was approved.
The newest member of the Nome Public Schools Board of Education, Sandra Martinson, joined returning members Jennifer Reader and Brandy Arrington, as they recited the Oath of Office at last Tuesday’s meeting.
Martinson won the school board seat over incumbent Panganga Pungowiyi after the October 3 municipal elections. Reader resumes her role as Vice-President/Clerk and Arrington will continue her duties as Treasurer. Nome-Beltz High School Senior Katherine Scott joins the board this school year as Student Representative.
In his report Superintendent Shawn Arnold highlighted budget issues, questions, and explained the ongoing conversation with the City of Nome regarding the budget. New board member Martinson wanted to know about the state of things with the city and if there is a plan of action in place.
Superintendent Arnold explained that the City had asked numerous questions to the district regarding long-term preschool education, capital improvement projects and budget clarification, among other things, after the district received funds from the City to help with potential budget cuts.
In May 2017, the City approved a contribution of $2.5 million to the district for the fiscal year 2018, an increase of $400,000 above the previous year’s contribution amount of $2.1 million.
After district funds were restored by the state after council funds were already allocated to the schools (and by law the City is not able to receive a refund), some councilmembers wanted to know in detail what the excess $400,000 would be used for.
As reported in the July 13 Nome Nugget, at the Monday, July 10, 2017 Common Council meeting, “[Councilman Stan] Andersen wanted to know if staff cuts were averted, if the librarian had been restored, and if there was a plan for funding the preschool. Councilman Jerald Brown agreed, and said he requested an updated comparing the prior school budget with the new budget that included the $400,000 extra from the City.”
“We’ve answered everything to the best of our ability,” said Arnold during the October 10 board meeting. “We have received legal advice that said that it may be that the requests are unreasonable. At this point, we’ve done our best to answer.”
Board member Brandy Arrington also expressed her concerns over the tension between NPS and the city at the meeting. She asked that the district push to meet the councilmembers face-to-face – as opposed to the back-and-forth letters currently being passed between the district and the city.
In a phone call with the Nome Nugget on Monday, October 17, Superintendent Arnold explained the tension between the city and district resulted from a miscommunication in July regarding the wrong timing of his ‘Thank you’ letter to the city. The funds were awarded to the district, then the budget cuts were restored by the state, then the City by state law could not receive a refund, and then a badly timed thank you letter to the city from the district rubbed some councilmembers the wrong way.
“We think that, at this point we’ve given all the information that was requested and we think that we’ve satisfied their questions,” said Arnold over the phone on Monday.
In the board meeting, it was also pointed out that while the City gave generously to the district for FY18, they are still only contributing 75 percent of their maximum allowable contribution. “As first class cities go, for the size of cities around the state, Nome is contributing well, but its still not [for its size],” explained Superintendent Arnold.
During the meeting, the board also approved Nome Public Schools Strategic Equity Framework. The equity framework is a plan that “calls out disparities in our schools, identifies the district’s role in erasing them and holds up high expectations to ensure that all students reach their academic potential,” as explained in a October 10, 2017 letter from Superintendent Arnold introducing the completed plan.
Equity in education, as defined by the district’s plan, is “Our commitment to raise the achievement of all learners, and eliminate the racial and socio-economic predictability and disproportionality of the highest and lowest achieving groups.”
The plan is broken up into five initiatives: anti-racism leadership, cultural competence, student-centered learning and teaching, family and community engagement, and community collaboration and integration. Each initiative is divided into specific sub-initiatives, each with a designated leader and an implementation timeline. With approval of the plan, an equity committee is automatically formed to review, analyze, and further develop the plan.
“For years we’ve talked about equity, but we’ve never really had any action,” Superintendent Arnold told the Nome Nugget over the phone on Monday. “The big step moving forward is actually living up to that framework and carrying it out over the next few years.” The full plan can be viewed on the district website at: https://www.nomeschools.org/Page/482
In other school board news, the board approved first and second readings of various policies, as well as approved Anvil City Science Academy’s charter school renewal application. ACSA is applying for a 10-year charter, as opposed to their previous five-year charter.
Students of the month for September are Devon Crowe from Nome-Beltz Junior High and Kelsie Crisci from Nome-Beltz Senior High. Teacher of the month is Hana Robb and Support Staff Member of the month is Jimmie Murdock.
The board will reconvene for a work session on Tuesday, October 24, followed by a regular meeting on November 14.