Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February Ramblings!

Good evening everyone!  I hope you are all at home enjoying this wonderful February evening.  Hard to believe that March will soon be upon us and that winter still could have another month or so of fun left in it still, especially when many of you may be seeing your crocus begin to pop out from under what little snow is left out there! It is also hard to believe that there is really only about three full months left of school this year (excluding April's vacation week, and the chaos that is often June). Although I'm sure if any of you are parents of HS seniors, you know exactly how much time is left in the school year, possibly down to the minute!  To be honest, I think about all the things that I need to accomplish between now and the end of this school year and I want to add days!  Of course, I'm thinking I would not be all that popular with the students if I suggested that, so I will refrain! :)

It has been about a month since my last post, so I wanted to take a moment to give a brief update to all of you regarding some important "happenings" in the district.   First, I wanted to provide an update on where we are with our FY 17 budget development work.  We have been working on developing our FY 17 budget in earnest since November when teachers and other staff began building their building and program level budgets that were due to me in December.  In January, I met individually (and multiple times) with each building principal and each program director in the district to review their budget requests line by line.  During these conversations, building principals and program directors had to be able to articluate a clear rationale for every request in their budgets, from colored folders to personnel requests to other new initiatives and everything in between.  We then used all this information to compile two different budgets. The first budget that was developed is called the "status quo" budget.  This budget is created simply to show the School Committee and others what it would cost to basically do the same things in FY 17 as we did in FY 16.  No new initiatives, no new personnel, just keeping things about where they are now.  This budget creates what I like to refer to as a "baseline" for comparison purposes as we then turn our attention to the second budget that was created. I lovingly refer to this second budget as the "Superinendent's Proposed Budget" or "HP1".   It is in this "HP1" budget where we reflect any suggested increases for new initiatives.  I label it "HP1" because over the course of the month of February and March, this superintendent's proposed budget will see several iterations and likely be at "HP5 or 6" before it is brought to the School Committee for full approval in April.

I share all of this to hopefully make it clear that where the proposed budget is now is NOT where it is going to wind up by the time we work our way through the process and get to a point where the School Committee votes to approve the budget in April.  The proposed budget will be presented to the School Committee over the course of two workshop meetings.  One occurred last night (2/22) and the other will occur this coming Monday (2/29) starting at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs conference room. We are recording both meetings and will make sure that they are available on GoCat asap.  After these two informational meetings are complete, the School Committee will then have three additional budget workshop meetings, during which significant changes can be made to the proposed budget. Those workshop meetings are open to the public to attend and are scheduled for 6:30p.m. on the following evenings:

*  March 14
*  March 21
*  March 23

A proposed budget will then be brought to the School Committee for approval at it's April 13 regular meeting which is also open to the public and will be on camera.  Once approved, the budget is then sent on to the Town Council by April 19.  A joint workshop meeting between the Town Council and the School Committee (which is also open to the public to view) is scheduled for the evening of May 17th.  The Town Council then has a public hearing and vote scheduled for the Town's Budget (including the school's budget) on June 7, 2016.  The School's budget approval process then winds up with one last step - the validation referendum vote, which is scheduled for June 14, 2016.

That's a pretty lengthy and involved process, and one that involves a great deal of give and take as we work our way through.  By the time we get to the public validation referendum vote, I have full faith that what is presented will represent the best work possible by all parties involved to put forward a budget to support the operatation of a comprehensive K-12 public education system that will meet the needs of our children, while balancing the needs of our taxpayers, who support our great system, to keep assessments as low as possible.

I will be sure to post updates via this blog, and via our website on where the proposed FY 17 budget stands as we move through this process.

I also wanted to make sure I reminded everyone about the Re-Visioning Process and our upcoming public forums.  So far we have had some great responses from our online survey.  Thank you to those who participated already - and if you haven't participated, please do so (Here's the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RXCYSCS ).  So far we've had 688 parents respond, and over 250 community members, but we'd love more!  The survey will be closed on March 10 so that we can sift through all the data and develop themes that will be used to craft a brand new Vision, Mission, and set of core beliefs for the Gorham Schools.  Exciting work, and we'd love your voice!

For those of you who might prefer a face to face conversation, I will be hosting a series of public forums on this process over the course of the next few weeks.  Here's a link to the details of those forums - would love to see you there!  (CLICK HERE)  With the help of Gorham's Business Exchange and the Westbrook/Gorham Chamber, I am also reaching out specifically to area business people to participate in this process.  So again, if you haven't completed the survey, and you are a local business person - we want your voice too!

Before I lose all of you with this lengthy post, I also wanted to share some of the great things going on in our schools right now.  Of course, I could go on and on for pages so I'll select just a few!  At GHS, we've recently had the one-act play "Asylum" make a big splash on the local drama scene!  Good luck to our students who are taking this one act play on the road to regional competitions!  Winter athletic programs are beginning to wrap up as well at the HS level.  We've had some excellent performances by individuals and teams this winter.  I have to say it has been a pleasure watching our students compete and hearing about their success!  Our students really do represent our community so well!  Anna Slager won the 1 and 2 mile competitions at the recent indoor state level track meet.  Our boys b-ball team recently performed well in the tournament, although ultimately losing to neighboring Massabesic.  Our cheerleaders did well in their respective competitions as well.  Our boy's hockey team starts their playoffs tonight, and of course, our girls basketball team will be playing for the state championship this Saturday night vs. Edward Little.  I know I've missed some accolades here - but to all our students who give their all for these activities and for our school. .. all I can say is we are proud of you and GO RAMS!

Finally,  I really wanted to share this awesome video coming from our very own Great Falls Elementary School.  I recently had the pleasure of spending some quality time at Great Falls reading "The One and Only Ivan" to several of the classes there, and got to know many of these great students and staff.  On a day I wasn't there, however. .. they did an all school song celebrating diversity.  It is definitely worth a view to brighten up your evening:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_h3O0xb5wA

Well, that's enough writing for now. .. gotta go check the weather as it looks like it might be a little messy out in the morning!  Stay tuned - you might be hearing from me earlier than you would like!