Following four and a half months of debate and behind-the-scenes work, the Kodiak Island Borough School District has a budget for 2014.

On Monday night, the school board unanimously approved a $48.7 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year. The budget is thinner than this year’s by more than $600,000 the result of cost-cutting measures that came in the wake of federal budget cuts.

The budget is not yet final — the Kodiak Island Borough assembly must approve its appropriation to schools, and negotiations are ongoing between the school district and its teachers union.

“We have arrived at a budget that sustains and supports our community priorities,” said schools superintendent Stuart McDonald. “There will be sacrifices and gives and takes across the board, but our priority was the students.”

Due to rising insurance and other costs, the school district has had to cut much more than that $600,000 amount to make ends meet.

The budget approved by the school board calls for seven fewer teachers, four fewer special education teachers, one less custodian, less help from instructional aides and fewer part-time and full-time support staff.

In total, the district will cut staff by the equivalent of 18.77 full-time employees.

The cuts are not spread evenly among the district’s schools. Kodiak High School will lose a special education teacher and the equivalent of one and a half teachers.

Kodiak Middle School will lose three and a half teachers, a special education teacher and an instructional aide.

East Elementary loses a special education teacher and a support person, Main Elementary loses three-quarters of a teacher and two aides. North Star Elementary loses one and a half teachers, while Peterson Elementary loses no staff.

Rural schools stay the same, except in Akhiok, which gains an aide.

None of the staffing cuts involved layoffs. Instead, the school district decided to not replace retiring or resigning teachers. Gaps were addressed by transferring teachers between grades or schools.

Assistant superintendent Marilyn Davidson said class sizes at the elementary school level will remain the same on average as they were before the staffing cuts.

Only a handful of parents and teachers spoke out against the cuts on Monday night, but those who did were vocal about preserving programs they favor.

“I kind of feel like I’m at a funeral, honestly,” said Theresa Hedges, who works with the district’s gifted and talented program. “This is a time of huge loss, as you’re aware, and we are all aware. And the loss is not just a current loss, this loss will continue into the future by what is lost to the students of our community.”

The budget approved by the school district calls for the maximum allowable contribution from borough government, an increase of $400,000 from earlier budget drafts.

Schools finance director Lisa Pearce said that change was made earlier this month after school administrators realized it was the only way to reduce teacher cuts.

“We were down 16 certified staff members, and if we requested the additional from the borough, we would be down only 11 or 12,” she said by phone on Tuesday. “It really was the only avenue for additional funding.”

In the past two years, the borough and school district have had heated debates over the borough’s contribution to area schools. Until this month, the borough assembly had been told to expect the same school district request as was given last year.

Borough assemblyman Mel Stephens, the borough assembly’s representative to the school board, declined to state his opinion on the request but said the borough assembly has been informed.

The school board will hold a public work session with the borough assembly at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

The school board also:

• approved the Kodiak Dance Team to send 10 members to two summer camps;

• approved the 2013 Alaska Teacher Education Loan Program nomination;

• recognized Lachlan Kirven, Analise Zimmer, Leila Pyle and Brenda Castonguay with Spirit of Youth recognition certificates;

• recognized the Kodiak High School student council, the Partner’s Club and Kodiak Alaska Revolution Against Tobacco;

• recognized Deb Rohrer, Nick Billings, Don Roberts, Joey Mendoza and Steve Johnson as volunteers of the month;

• gave service awards to Kathy Huling and Margaret Delleman of East Elementary, Karluk School teacher Russell Scotter, and KHS teacher Lindsey Glenn;

• recognized school board student representatives Catherine Le and Nathalie Meus;

• appointed Franco Nero to an advisory seat on the school board;

• approved a $76,585 contract with Kimberlee Dorner to be a preschool teacher at Peterson Elementary;

• approved a $75,710 contract with Susan Patrick to teach at East Elementary;

• approved a $78,336 contract with Dianne Grupp to teach math at Kodiak Middle School;

• approved contracts totaling $2,22,287 for 38 full-time equivalent employees;

• denied David Wages’ request for a two-year leave of absence;

• and approved a trip to a national archery competition in Kentucky for three rural schools archery students.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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