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Back to school gets tricky
By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Juggling schedules and making last-minute preparations for a new school year is nothing new for Baker High School principal Jerry Peacock.
The routine has intensified this year, however, because of a Baker School District funding shortfall.
The shortfall, which has been reported at as high as $1.7 million, is actually about $456,000, according to Superintendent Toni Hardman. The $1.7 million figure that has been discussed in meetings was based on a wish list of what the district would have needed to pay for things such as higher salary and insurance benefit increases for district staff, she said.
The smaller figure is the difference between the actual money we had last year that we dont have this year, Hardman said.
One of the items on the initial wish list that has been eliminated is a $30,000 increase to the extracurricular activities budget at Baker High School. Because of the loss of that funding, Peacock and John Birkmaier, BHS athletic director, have been charged with either making further reductions or raising the additional $30,000 to fund the same programs that were offered last year.
They have met with district coaches to brainstorm ideas.
We want to take a look at it as a composite effort, not necessarily an individual sport effort, he said of strategies for making up the shortfall.
Discussions are continuing regarding a pay-to-play system, and coaches will meet with business leaders to consider fund-raising efforts.
But Peacock said athletic programs already conduct fund-raising efforts each year to supplement school district funding, so it might be difficult for the community to dig further into its pockets to provide support.
The principal added that he hopes to preserve as much of the athletic program as possible because of its value as an extension of academics.
Its an extension that keeps a lot of kids in the program, he said.
And sports help students develop desirable traits such as self-discipline, time management skills and commitment.
The same is true of other extracurricular activities such as theater, music, speech and debate and forestry, he added.
They personify the traits we want to get across to them in a lab environment, he said.
Schedules short one period
Peacock and his staff mailed schedules to high school students in Grades 10-12 this week. More than 200 of those schedules do not include all eight periods.
Letters were sent out with the schedules explaining that those who are missing classes should meet with a counselor Monday or Tuesday to fill in the empty slots.
Seniors will meet with counselors from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at the high school; and juniors, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sophomores should be at the high school Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. to adjust their schedules.
Freshman will receive their schedules during orientation Sept. 4. They will spend the day with seniors chosen and trained to serve as peer mentors. All other high school students will return to classes Sept. 5.
Some programs have been combined as the result of staff reductions that have been made because of the funding shortfall, Peacock said.
For example, Merna Putman will teach journalism and yearbook as a combined class this year with a class load of about 20 students. The classes had been offered separately in the past. Putman has traditionally taught yearbook and Lynne Burroughs has taught the journalism class that produces the high school newspaper.
Sharon Defrees and Cammy Warner will team teach a combined class for peer mentors and leadership, which also had been offered separately.
Weve dropped or combined to preserve classes, Peacock said.
Weve done a good job of maintaining our advanced classes, he said, adding that we have to develop integrity at both ends of the schedule and hope to heck the folks in the middle come out all right.
Teacher Gundula ONeal, who has taught science full time, has requested a half-time position this year. The other half-time position will be a yet-to-be-hired teacher who would fill an English and Workplace 2000 slot, Peacock said.
Some business classes have been cut back to meet the requirements of the Workplace 2000 program that is part of Oregons school reform plan, he said.
Forestry classes will be maintained this year despite the resignation of teacher Jeff Collier. Science teacher Tim Smith, who has a strong background in natural resources, will teach forestry part time and science part time, Peacock said.
The role of parent volunteers also will be expanded this year, he said.
For the past two years, parents have performed clerical duties in the front office. This year they also will volunteer in the library and in the guidance and counseling center to help students research careers and plan for college.