OPINION: Education Leaders Urge Community To Voice Their Concerns

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The following was written and submitted by, Lenny Hay, Kelly McGovern, Nicole Bolton, Dr. Gigi Jasper, Jennifer Wilmetti and Joe Clingenpeel.

 

Dear Community Members,

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Do you want your student to lose band, welding, activities, choir, music, art, athletics, drama, physical education, speech and debate, or foreign language?

And this is not a complete list. With the loss of these programs, think about how this could impact your student. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. The current school funding model provides funds for reading/language arts, social studies, math, science, fine arts/performing arts, physical education, health and safety, humanities, career/vocational education, foreign cultures and languages, applied technology, government, and civics. This is what the state considers the “basket of goods.”

A well-rounded education provides a variety of opportunities and choices for our students’ future. Do not allow the state to pigeon hole our students by reducing their opportunities.

Recalibration is a process that examines school funding, from materials, school facilities, and class size. As a Sweetwater County Stakeholder, your input is important at the state’s forum. The state hired a consulting firm to make recommendations about recalibration and the future of Wyoming education. A public meeting will be held at the Rock Springs Junior High from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Monday, August 14, 2017.

Through legislative cuts, reduced state funding required Districts to cut their budgets. All of the cuts took a toll on students and staff. Here are some of the budget cuts Sweetwater #1 took the last three years:

• Personnel cuts totaling $5,863,500 by reducing more than 150 positions in the following areas: administration, paraprofessionals, directors, custodial and maintenance staff, certified teachers and other certified staff, and coordinators.

• To save $402,770 we closed Lincoln Elementary.

• To save $2,000,000 now and in future years, the District offered an early retirement incentive and froze salaries, in lieu of a reduction in force. The savings was $2,000,000 but the cost was hundreds of years of teaching experience.

• To save $1,500,000 the District employee insurance plan was redesigned.

• To save $1,170,000 instructional facilitator positions were eliminated.

• To save $280,000 in transportation expenses, busing schedules were revised.

Everyone is affected by these decisions, whether you have children, grandchildren, or your next-door neighbor attends
school. We all have a stake in the success of our District and community.

Currently, we are still able to offer reasonable class sizes, gifted and talented programs, advanced placement classes, intervention resources, extended day programs, activities, and athletics, to name a few. However, all of these are at risk of being eliminated. We are also able to offer highly qualified teachers to educate our students. The salaries in Wyoming are no longer an incentive to attract and retain teachers because neighboring states have closed the gap putting the quality of our work force at risk.

Please reach out to your legislators and attend the public meeting on Monday, August 14, 2017. These decisions could have devastating lasting effects, not only on education, but also to businesses and the economy of our state.

Together, we make a difference.

Lenny Hay, Sweetwater School District Number One Board President hayl@sw1.k12.wy.us

Kelly McGovern, Superintendent of Sweetwater School District Number One mcgovernk@sw1.k12.wy.us

Nicole Bolton, Director of Human Resources Sweetwater School District Number One boltonn@sw1.k12.wy.us

Dr. Gigi Jasper, Sweetwater Education Association President jasperg@sw1.k12.wy.us

Jennifer Wilmetti, Sweetwater Education Association Vice President wilmettij@sw1.k12.wy.us

Joe Clingenpeel, Wyoming Education Association Southwest Uniserv Director jclingenpeel@wyoea.org