Vashon school board to vote on $15 million annual spending plan

The Vashon Island School Board will vote on a $15.47 million budget at its meeting Thursday night, a spending plan that restores several teaching positions and other reductions proposed earlier this year.

School Board Chair Laura Wishik said strong fundraising, greater efficiency and a growth in the number of off-Island students have made it possible to restore all the cuts initially put forward by Superintendent Michael Soltman.

This spring, Soltman predicted a shortfall in the 2011-12 budget of more than $1 million. But Wishik said the community’s strong philanthropy as well as an increase in so-called commuter students shored up the budget.

Teachers also took a 1.9 percent pay cut and adminstrators took a 3 pecent cut in pay, reductions mandated by the Legislature.

“Ultimately, we were able to restore all the positions that were cut,” Wishik said.

In fact, according to Soltman, the district is now looking to fill a handful of positions — including a part-time kindergarten teacher, a part-time high school Spanish teacher and a high school science teacher.

No bus routes are cut in the new budget, a sensitive issue in the past two years. And the district has already hired a new school nurse to replace Kate Packard, who is retiring. Pending board approval Thursday night, former King County public health nurse Sarah Day will take the job.

The budget assumes no full-time kindergarten in the fall, Wishik said. The district did not have enough children enrolled for a full-day class. 

The budget is also built around a 20 percent growth in the number of students commuting to Vashon from the Seattle or Port Orchard areas. During the last academic year, 157 students commuted; this fall, the district expects to have 190 commuters, Wishik said. That figure reflects the number of students who have actually committed to coming in the fall, not a school district projection, she added.

Soltman has actively recruited off-Island students, as each one brings more than $5,000 in state funds to the district. Some Vashon residents take issue with the approach, arguing that off-Island students don’t, in fact, carry their weight financially and alter the fabric of the school community.

But Wishik said she’s glad the district is strong enough to draw students from elsewhere. 

“I feel, frankly, blessed that we have a program that attracts students from other places,” she said.


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