06/11/2011: "Letter To SJI Community"
By Rick Thompson
Congratulations to the members of the graduating class of 2011. Thanks to school and family support seniors are moving into the next exciting phases of their lives.
I recently sat in on several senior presentations where our graduating seniors described their personal strengths, academic preparation, and vision for the future. I was inspired and impressed by their thoughtfulness.
I am pleased to announce that Connie Martin has been selected as interim principal at Friday Harbor Elementary School. Connie comes to us highly recommended and we look forward to a fun and productive school year. I want to commend the members of our diverse search committee for putting in the many hours necessary to oversee the details of the search process. Committee members included Amy Hull, Tessa deGarve, Jo Sandwith, Marty Robinson, Susan Williamson, Brent Snow, Kay Jakutis, Shannon Miniken, Mike Taylor, Marie Rothlisberger, Robin DeLaZerda and Gail Leschine.
For many months district staff and community members have been brainstorming ways to enhance district curricula with a focus on STEM education. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Funding sources are being explored so that we can best prepare our students for the future. At the May 25 board meeting members of the committee led by Larry Wight provided the board an overview of the efforts underway to support STEM as well as what we as a district could do with more funding.
As expected, our district budget will be reduced again by the state which will mean more pressure and demands on our district’s general funds. The loss of initiatives 728 and 732, the elimination of class size reduction funding, and less money projected for alternate programs all add up. In addition, pay decreases are directed for administrative, certificated, and classified staff. Like other districts, we will do more with less to provide the best possible education for our students over the next biennium. Over the summer we will meet with our staff and our two labor unions to understand the details of the cuts and to implement fair wages for all.
Please note that the district’s capital levy will be placed on the ballot next February. This measure will ask voters to replace the existing levy which pays for capital (facility) project needs in our district. It is clear to many of our stakeholders that our current capital budget (and the related strain on the General Fund) is not meeting the long term needs of the district. Many maintenance projects are being deferred. We have decided to postpone the replacement of the elementary school roof due to higher than expected bids. More information will come out this fall. Your continued support of our district is appreciated.
Finally, hats off to Friday Harbor Middle and High School Band Teacher Janet Olsen and Friday Harbor Elementary School Teacher Jay Westphalen who have both announced their retirements. We offer our deepest thanks to both Janet and Jay for their years of dedicated service to the district, the students and their families, and for their commitment to public education.
I will be working most of the summer. Let me know how I can be of assistance to you. I have appreciated my first year as Superintendent of the San Juan Island School District. Thank you for all you do to provide direction, encouragement, hope and support for all of our students.
(Rick Thompson is the Superintendent of Schools for the San Juan Island School District)