Benzie Central Community Forum
December 20, 2016
Questions and Answers from the Audience
Q: Are there plans to increase vocational and/or other curriculum to boost opportunities for students who are not college bound?
A: Yes – this is a priority for the administration and board alike. We are currently involved in conversations with multiple post-secondary institutions to pursue partnerships that would help students seeking both “traditional” college courses as well as other post-secondary courses of study that might lead to apprenticeships, certifications, or two year degrees. We also are pursuing options for co-op and work/study programs.
Q: Has there been discussion of changing the start times of all of the schools to be closer than what they are now to decrease transportation costs?
A: Gaining efficiencies in our transportation department is an area of focus, but admittedly a difficult challenge for us given our extremely large geography. We are examining all options including “single tier” transportation (K-12 bussing) and route consolidation in our current system. We are committed, however, to keeping bus ride times as reasonable as is possible and practical given our geography.
Q: Where is all of the money going and how did our budget break down?
A: This is a complicated question. Our monies are spent primarily (over 80%) on salaries and benefits of teachers and support employees. Costs continue to rise in such areas as health care, retirement obligations, utilities, and more while our funding has definitively NOT kept pace. As a result, we have gradually chipped away at our once healthy fund balance and have held programs harmless. In order to be fiscally responsible and set ourselves up for future stability and growth, we must make difficult decisions while maintaining focus on our core mission.
Q: Do we have an elementary school counselor? Don’t we need one?
A: We have partnered with community agencies and now have a “Safenet” worker in each elementary building who focuses on mental health issues. We are very pleased with the results of this partnership and have built strong community ties while simultaneously saving money for our schools.
Q: What groups have had this presentation and would it be possible for other target groups to see this presentation?
A: In addition to this public forum, we have presented this information at a public school board meeting, to the Benzie Sunrise Rotary, the Benzie Chamber of Commerce, and the Benzie Economic Development Council. We have also reached out and are coordinating with the Gathering Place to reach out to our seniors. We stand ready to speak to other groups as well. Referrals / suggestions are welcome and appreciated!
Q: How do legacy costs factor in?
A: Educator retirement is a cost born by the district, but that cost has been capped by the state to make the cost more fiscally prudent and predictable. The legislature has modified the traditional retirement program since 2012 and new employees are fully funded through a “hybrid” style plan. The larger picture is more of a state issue than a local district issue, though it certainly will have a trickle down impact depending on how the state does or doesn’t change the system. In the short term, there is little impact. In the long term, the answer depends on how the legislature approaches the issue.
Q: What other options can we explore for bringing additional funds to the district?
A: Innovation and alternative revenue streams are an important part of our long term plan. It is important to balance making necessary cuts/reductions with investing in important initiatives that may help you grow in the long term. It is important that we maintain strong curriculum and make sure that we have excellent choices for students and families. We also can and should look at other programs that we currently either don’t offer or offer on small scales such as early childhood programs and post-secondary dual enrollment programs. We also must be responsive to our business community and seek partnerships with employers in our region as well.
Q: What are the plans to introduce classes that interest all kids such as performing arts at the high school level?
A: We need to assess both interest of our students as well as seek out real needs in our community and beyond. It’s important to educate our students as to what those options are as well. If we solely base classes on student interest, they will be limited by the scope of their own experiences. Helping expose our kids to careers and courses that they may be unaware of (but also hold promise in the local and global marketplace) can help drive interest as well.
Q: How can I help?
A: Please be an advocate for our schools and help correct the record when someone downplays us or incorrectly makes statements that imply we are not an outstanding district. We have many points of pride that need to be better known. Please talk to your family, friends, and neighbors about what we know to be true. Benzie Schools consistently outperform similar districts, the state, and everyone’s expectations. If you are interested in helping to determine our future through serving on a strategic planning committee, please email Mr. Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your phone and email so we can get in contact with you.
Thanks for your interest in and support of Benzie Central Schools!