Thursday, April 30, 2009

Supplemental Levy

The Board of Trustees set the 2009 supplemental levy Tuesday evening $50,000 lower than the current levy. The proposed levy, to be voted on May 19, was set at $515,000. The levy covers the shortfall between state funding and the expenses of the educational program.

The decrease is a result of reducing staff by 1.3 FTE, deferring the purchase of math textbooks for one year, maintaining the status quo in the activities program, limiting activity travel, utilizing federal stimulus dollars to pay for instructional aides and slightly increasing revenue by adding a transportation fee for non-athletic activities. We are also expending about $53,000 of excess fund balance and transferring another $18,000 from the medical reimbursement account.

The current maintenance and operations budget will have minimal negative impacts on most students and families. The election is being held on May 19 from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM. There is one polling place in each county; the Latah poll is at the school and the Nez Perce poll is at the Morscheck residence.

The cost of this levy, based on an estimated market value of $124,479,343, taking into account the reductions in property tax as a result of the agricultural property tax replacement, is $3.76 per thousand dollars of assessed value.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu

The news seems dominated by swine flu these days. The Genesee School District receives regular updates from the Idaho North Central Public Health District and the Center for Disease Control. There have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Idaho although four individuals have had flu-like illnesses that are being tested. During the past five years we have been studying and planning for a potential pandemic flu. At this point, we do not know if this will become widespread.

The best thing parents can tell their children and the advice we always give to students is to follow good respiratory etiquette. This includes:
  • Wash your hands after being in public, or after coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth;
  • Cover your cough or sneeze, or cough into your elbow;
  • If you are sick, stay home from work or school. Protect your co-workers and friends. Please don't travel when you are sick; and
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Symptoms of swine flu are similar to seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. People cannot contract the infection from eating properly cooked pork.

The CDC will soon be shipping medications and supplies to states in case the outbreak becomes more serious. Right now the best thing we can all do is to observe the bulleted points above.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Parent-Teacher Organization

An organizational meeting to re-form the Genesee PTO will be held on Wednesday, May 6 at 7:00 PM in the mutli-purpose room. This will be an informal and informational meeting. All parents and teachers are invited.

A number of years ago, Genesee had a very active PTO group but, for various reasons, it dissolved. Tami Pope and Caty Spence recently visited with me to see about reactivating the PTO. I think it is a wonderful idea that deserve parent and community support.

Parent-Teacher Organizations can serve several useful purposes for students, parents and teachers. There are always positive ways to get involved with your school. PTO groups hold fundraisers that provide quality activities for students like carnivals and contests. They can be effective advocates for school program support. And they can offer volunteer help and moral support for teachers.

Come to the meeting and help design the goals and objectives of the Genesee PTO. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Historical Pupil/Teacher Ratio Data

There has been significant discussion in the School District regarding the possibility that there may be a reduction in the number of teachers due to declining enrollment. One of the best measures we can look at, over time, is pupil-teacher ratio. The Idaho Department of Education has published this historical data on their web site.

I have posted a chart showing our District's pupil-teacher ratio from the 1993-94 school year until the current school year. As you can see on the chart there have been three years (06-07, 04-05 and 98-99) where we had a slightly smaller ratio than we do this year. Of course, this is a function of enrollment and staffing. The statewide teacher-pupil ratio is 18.2. One of the benefits of a small school is a lower pupil-teacher ratio. The lower the ratio, the higher the cost.

The trend line on the chart shows that, over time, our teacher-pupil ratio has declined. Within reason this is a good thing, but as enrollment continues to decline it is reasonable to consider what ratio is desirable for the District? What ratio demonstrates prudent management of financial resources? How can we best staff the school district to carry out our mission over time? These are all questions the Board of Trustees and the Administration must consider as we adjust to the current economic and demographic reality.

Based on our fall enrollment projections of 279 students (K-12) and 23.9 FTE teachers (assuming the Board accepts my staffing recommendation) our pupil-teacher ratio will decline to 11.7; the lowest level since the Department of Education began reporting this data.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Superintendent's Budget Recommendation

As promised, I have posted my fiscal year 2010 budget recommendations prior to the special Board meeting on April 28 on the District web site. The purpose of the special meeting on the 28th is for the trustees to set the amount of the supplemental levy which will be voted on Tuesday, May 19. Of course, it is necessary to have some preliminary budget figures to enable us to determine the needed amount for the levy.

In addition to my recommendations which will be forwarded to the trustees, I have also posted a very preliminary maintenance and operations budget. It is preliminary because we will continue to refine the budget until our budget hearing in June as we receive additional information from the Idaho Department of Education and the United States Department of Education. The legislature is still in session as I write this and several education bills and the FY2010 state education budget have not yet been signed into law. Changes can still occur. Final interpretations of new laws have not yet been completed by the State Department. Regardless, we need to move forward with the best information we have at the moment.

Even though we are losing student enrollment, we are fortunate that we are in "protected status" this year. This means that we are guaranteed 99% of the prior year's support units. This provision of state law helps districts that are losing enrollment to adjust to the new lower enrollment figures. However, this is only for one year. If our numbers remain the same next year, we will decrease by two support units (from 19.5 to 17.5). This is extremely significant and will have a major impact on our FY2011 budget. A support unit is like a classroom unit which has 1.1 instructional staff members attached to it. A reduction of two support units will impact the district by $175,000. It is imperative that we adjust to this downward trend in enrollment. That is one of the reasons why I am recommending the reduction of 1.2 FTE staff members for FY2010.

Some will probably question my recommendation of a lower supplemental levy. The reasons are really quite simple. First, through our management of the budget and slightly larger than anticipated state funding for FY2009, we have a higher than necessary fund balance. We are able to return this "extra" money to the taxpayers through a reduced levy. In addition, many of our patrons have lost employment or had their hours reduced. I feel strongly that we need to provide tax relief and be as fiscally prudent as we can. The third reason is the necessity to pass this levy. Without the successful passage of this levy, the District will need to make additional program and staffing cuts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ideas for raising children

Two important principles for interacting with your children are: (1) Know and follow the values you want your children to live with, and (2) understand them from their point of view. Parents should list the main values and principles for living that they want their children to master. What specific positive traits do you want your children to have. Make a list for each child.

A confident parent who creates a loving relation with his children, will find that his children will listen to him. When telling your children to do or not to do something, your voice needs to show confidence that you expect your children to listen to what you have to say. If you sound as if you don't really expect your children to listen to you, they will pick up your non-verbal message and are very likely not going to listen.

Be clear and specific when telling your children what they should or should not do. Telling a child to "be good" is too vague and not likely to be very effective. When you see things from your child's point of view, you will be careful to respect his feelings and thoughts. This will give your children a sense of self-respect and respect for others. Think about how you wanted to be treated when you were a child. Taking individual differences into account, act that way towards your children. Keep in mind that no child wants to be insulted or ridiculed by their parents.

Don't threaten your children. When you threaten a child, you create unnecessary anxiety and fear. If you make threats that you both know you won't keep, you are teaching them not to take you seriously. Threats automatically imply that you think there is a possibility that your children will not listen to you. Never give your children negative labels. negative labels create negative self-image, which is highly destructive.

Don't expect perfection when interacting with your children. Everyone makes mistakes. If you feel you have made mistakes in the past, begin again now. Be totally committed to creating a loving relationship with each of your children. Apologize to your children when it is appropriate. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness.

Don't fulfill your child's every request. Deny your children something at least once a day. Life is tough. You want to train your child to deal with difficulties and disappointments - not to expect that every whim and desire will be fulfilled. Unfulfilled expectations are the source of most misery. "Cornucopia kids" will never learn to grow up as happy adults.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Average Daily Attendance

In Idaho, schools are funded primarily based on ADA or average daily attendance versus the alternative method which would be based on enrollment. Enrollment seems to make sense since the school must supply teachers, textbooks, desks, rooms, supplies, etc. for every student who walks through the doors without regard for the student's individual attendance pattern. But that is not the way our funding system works in this state.

The implication for schools is that it financially benefits the school district to have as high an attendance rate as possible. Genesee has historically had a ninety-five percent attendance rate but we have seen some erosion of that recently. Certainly when a student is ill that student should remain at home so he or she gets better quickly and does not spread germs at school, but otherwise we would hope to see the student as much as possible. There is a financial reason which I will discuss below, but we also know that students who attend school on a regular basis perform better academically. I have seen many research studies which suggest that increasing time on task increases student achievement. I am still waiting to see even one study which suggests spending less time learning improves student achievement.

Regular attendance helps students develop positive habits which better prepare them for success in the work force. I have had numerous employers over the years inquire about students who have applied for employment. These employers seldom ask about the students' grades but they often ask about their attendance patterns, behavior, self-discipline, etc. These are all part of a thorough public education.

Financially, attendance can have a huge impact on the funding any district receives from the State. We currently have 290 students who average nearly a 95% attendance rate. This year we budgeted $2,035,644 in state funds. Assuming that is the amount we receive (we won't know until the year is over and our best 28 weeks of attendance is calculated) we have given up $107,132 in lost state funding as a result. In other words had all of our students had perfect attendance we would have received $369.42 more per student or $107,132! That works out to about $41 per day for every day of absence.

Who cares you might ask? Everyone with a stake in the School District should care. Based on the information we have today, if everything held equal next year and we had perfect attendance we would not have to make any significant cuts to programs or increase the levy. That is significant for parents, patrons and students.

Can anything be done? For the District's part we can analyze our school calendar and not hold school on days when traditionally a large number of students are gone such as during the fair or Thanksgiving week, etc. This may sound easy but every calendar committee we put together always wants to begin after labor day, have a week at Thanksgiving, two weeks for winter break, a week for spring break and get out before Memorial Day. There simply are not enough days to do that without attending on Saturdays.

Parents can attempt to schedule appointments and family vacations on days when school is not in session or on days of early release. I realize this is not always possible, but it would be helpful. Any individual action that can be taken to improve average daily attendance will have a significant positive impact on our students.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lunch Program... use it or lose it.

On March 19th I wrote about our child nutrition program (commonly called hot lunch). I explained how we are reimbursed at varying rates for lunches depending on the status of the student eating the lunch. I discussed the current cost per meal and some of the steps we have taken as a school district to reduce costs. I explained that we stand to lose $30,000 this year. I indicated that "the only way we will ever break even is to increase the participation rate to between 70-80% of all students." At the end of March only 47.8% of the first through twelfth grade students are eating on any given day.

Many patrons have expressed support for the continuance of the child nutrition program. Last evening at the Board meeting, several parents expressed the possibility of surveying parents and students to find out what we might do to encourage a higher percentage of student participation. At the suggestion of a trustee, we will reconvene our wellness committee and develop survey questions that we will make available online.

You can help us design a questionnaire that will provide us with valuable information.Would questions such as the following help you to provide us valuable information? Can you think of others?
  • What do you like and not like about the program?
  • What does your student like and not like?
  • Are the meals appetizing in appearance?
  • Are the meals a good value?
  • Does the food taste good?
  • Is it simply too expensive?
  • Do we need greater variety?
  • Should we close the campus to high school students and force them to remain on campus?
  • Should we invite the general public to eat in our cafeteria when the students are present?
  • Should elementary students have a choice of entree also?
Perhaps there is nothing we could do to encourage you or your student to utilize our lunch program. We would like to hear from you about that also.

The trustees would prefer to continue to operate the child nutrition program but it is becoming increasingly difficult as our enrollment declines and costs increase. It may come down to using it or losing it.

Please provide a comment to this post or send comments directly to Superintendent Neumann at Thank you for your help.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Driving at noon

The School Board has a policy whereby students are not allowed to drive during the lunch hour unless they have permission from the Principal (in an extraordinary situation) or they are leaving school grounds for work experience. Those students who do have permission to drive at lunch may not give a ride to another student.

Over the years numerous parents and students have questioned why the Trustees have such a rule and have, on several occasions, asked the Board to change the policy. The Board has never chosen to change the rule. Our high school is an open campus at lunch which means that students may walk home or downtown for lunch. They may not drive at lunch because the Board is concerned with the health and safety of students. Another concern of the Board of Trustees is the potential liability to the taxpayers should a student be injured while driving at lunch.

Students know the rules. Those who choose to ignore the rule and get caught are generally given detention the first time. Subsequent violations can lead to suspension. While the Principal supervises the parking lot as best she can, we are always happy to have a concerned patron call the Principal (285-1162 extension 203), identify him or herself and the students involved.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Holocaust Survivor Noemi Ban

Noemi Ban of Bellingham, Washington, a Holocaust survivor who has spoken in our area in the past, will be giving a presentation at Genesee School Monday, April 13 at 7:00 PM in the multi-purpose room. All are welcome and there is no charge.

In addition to the free public presentation, Ms. Ban will visit with secondary students on Tuesday the 14th. These presentations have been made possible through the ASB Multi-Cultural Fund which was originally funded by a donation from the United Dairyman of Idaho after Cord Barker was named the UDI Student of the Year. Cord's sister Destiny has been active in promoting diversity in our school and this program is a result of her efforts.

Noémi Shoënberger Ban is an award winning teacher and public speaker, respected and beloved mother, grandmother and synagogue senior who has lived in Bellingham since 1982. A native of Szeged, Hungary, Noémi Ban was 21 when the Nazis marched into Debrecen, Hungary on March 19, 1944. Ultimately her father was sent to a forced labor camp and she and her family (grandmother- Nina, Mother- Juliska, sister- Erzsebet, and baby brother- Gabor) were sent on a transport to Auschwitz arriving on July 1, 1944. Immediately separated from her family (where they became victims of the Nazi genocide) Noémi spent nearly four months in Auschwitz before being picked by Dr. Joseph Mengele to be transferred to a sub-camp of Buchenwald to work at a bomb factory. Escaping during the forced march to Bergen Belsen in April of 1945, Noémi and eleven of her campmates were found by a soldier from Patton’s army who informed them of their freedom. Finally arriving in Budapest in September of 1945, Noémi reunited with her father who also survived. Noémi was married to Earnest Ban in October and they settled in Budapest where Earnest was a teacher.

The Soviets came into power in 1948. While living under Communist rule and control, Noémi herself became a seventh and eighth grade teacher. Reaching the point were she could no longer live under the dictates of the Communist regime Noémi, her husband, and two sons tried to escape via train to Austria. Thwarted at the border Noémi did not give up or give in. With a friend’s help she and her family, less than a month after the first attempt, finally made it to freedom in Austria by hiding in giant balls of yarn being shipped by truck from Budapest to Sopron on December 29, 1956.

Noémi and her family arrived in the United States in February of 1957 and were relocated to St .Louis, Missouri. Both she and Earnest went back to school to learn English and then pursued American college degree-Earnest teaching math, Noémi becoming a sixth grade teacher. Upon Earnest’s retirement (he was ten years older than Noémi) they came to Bellingham, Washington to be close to their son, Steven, a pediatrician.

The importance of this event cannot be overstated considering the advancing age of remaining Holocaust survivors. Certainly we have pictures and museums, such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., but the opportunity to actually hear an individual who experienced this tragic event in human history is one you will not want to miss. History tends to repeat itself, i.e. Darfur, and there is much to be learned.

This presentation may not be appropriate for younger children.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The importance of a high school diploma

According to a report just issued by the Center for Public Education, "school districts should make every effort to help students receive a high school diploma even if it takes longer than four years."

According to the report, late graduates who receive their diploma in more than four years were compared to three other groups: on-time graduates, students who earn a GED and dropouts. As expected on-time graduates had the best outcomes in every aspect of life - not just academic, but work, civic life and even health - but late graduates were a close second ahead of GED and dropouts.

Eight-five percent of late graduates were employed compared to 77% of those who received GEDs and 81% of the dropouts. Late grads were also more likely to be employed full-time and possess a job with full benefits.

The report recommends schools offer a curriculum that adequately prepares middle level students for high school courses, identify struggling students and provide intervention programs as well as providing additional support for low-achieving students in high school.

Fortunately, our middle level students are taught by the same teachers who instruct high school students and these teachers are able to provide a sequential progression which helps students build the skills and abilities needed in high school courses while they are middle level students. This year the District implemented a policy whereby junior high or middle level courses are transcripted and students who do not make adequate progress in the 7th and 8th grade do not automatically move on to the next higher grade. It is certainly important that middle level students be prepared, but we feel it is even more important that elementary students are prepared adequately in the fundamental skills which lead to success in school. Our belief in early success led us to become one of the early school districts in Idaho to adopt the Response to Intervention model.

Genesee School has used the Response to Intervention (RtI) model to provide needed support for struggling students at any grade level. RtI has had a major impact on our school by using a data-based decision-making process. Rather than assume the student has a problem, RtI requires that we look at the instruction, the curriculum and the environment in addition to the student. Parents play an integral part in the decision-making process and students are closely monitored during the intervention to insure it is working as anticipated. We believe that the changes we have adopted as we have implemented RtI have had a major impact on student achievement in our school.

Due to our small size, it is difficult for students to "fall between the cracks" and we have few dropouts. I believe a student has to work harder to fail than to succeed in Genesee. Our teachers go the extra mile to help students by coming in early or staying after school, as needed. This is not to say that the student is not ultimately responsible for his or her own education, but that support is available for those who seek it out.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The Genesee School District has a labor agreement with the Genesee Education Association which identifies the manner in which a reduction-in-force would be completed for certified teachers. The wording for that agreement can be found on our web site at:

The agreement outlines what condition or conditions must exist before the Board may declare a RIF. Once one or more of the five conditions exists, the Board of Trustees can conduct the RIF. As with RIF provisions in other school districts, our provision utilizes seniority as the primary factor while also taking into account other factors. A seniority list, using the mechanisms identified in the agreement, is developed and checked and in place should a RIF be necessary. This is a very objective process that both parties to the labor agreement must follow.

The Genesee School District has experienced an enrollment decline for several years. Added to the enrollment decline this year is a reduction in state funding for K-12 education. Both of these factors will be taken into consideration when a school budget is produced for the 2010 fiscal year.