Federal Way superintendent recommends adding more school staff, technology

The Federal Way Public Schools board of directors selected Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of business services, as interim superintendent on Tuesday. - Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools
The Federal Way Public Schools board of directors selected Sally McLean, assistant superintendent of business services, as interim superintendent on Tuesday.
— image credit: Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

In her first budget recommendation presentation as interim superintendent, Sally McLean shared that state dollars are continuing to flow back into the district’s coffers, following nearly a decade in which $30 million was lost from state funding cuts.

While this influx of money is a positive for Federal Way, McLean noted the district has to figure out how to allocate that money wisely.

“When we first started talking about the 2014-15 budget and the budget priorities, we knew there were some things that needed to be addressed as we prepared that recommendation,” she said. “We know that we have new and continuing state and federal mandates that we need to prepare for. We know the Legislature has passed new requirements for graduation … In addition to that, we wanted to be strategic about on-time graduation support strategies. We are looking to continue to expand on our parent and community engagement. We talked about the fact we need to make some strategic investments in materials, supplies and operating costs. We have some budget priorities around student extracurricular activities, and we are looking to sustain or reinstate our ability to have market competitive compensation.”

Some of the state and federal mandates McLean referenced included a Teacher/Principal Evaluation Program, along with Common Core State Standards. Some of the legislative mandates McLean mentioned included a program called Core 24, attempting to reduce class size in high poverty schools, and possible impacts of the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver that the the federal government removed.

McLean noted that enrollment is up in the district in three key areas: basic education, special education and English language learners. Because of this, the initial budget recommendation allocates $3.4 million towards enrollment and staffing changes.

“One of the biggest pieces of support we can provide our schools, as you look at changing enrollments, is to increase staff to meet those changing enrollment needs,” McLean said. “I think the important piece for us to recognize here is that the entire bit of revenue being recommended is in support of teachers and para-educators.”

With the funding for materials, supplies and operating costs, McLean said that changes coming from Olympia resulted in an approximate $2.2 million infusion for the district.

“We’ve talked a lot about making this increase be a strategic investment in curriculum and instructional materials, student technology and building maintenance,” the interim superintendent shared with the board. “We’re allocating an additional $500,000 to Teaching for Learning to support our teachers with curriculum resources related to the Common Core State Standards and next generation science standards.”

McLean noted $400,000 will go towards student technology, if the budget is approved. Part of this is driven by the state’s shift to online test administration for the state’s new end of year assessment, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Along with this, the district hopes to increase the number of devices available to students. Currently, McLean said, the ratio of students to devices is about 8 to 1, and with this infusion of money, the district hopes to lower that ratio to 4 to 1.

The district hopes to allocate $600,000 to building maintenance with this budget, McLean said, citing the need for some maintenance/restorative work needed throughout a number of buildings in the district, but this is not a long-term solution.

“We know we still have a large category of needs related to the infrastructure of our buildings and the roofing. We will still be looking to address those in future years,” she added.

McLean also recommended $50,000 for musical instruments, citing a need for students to have access to some of the larger, and more expensive, instruments they might not have at this time.

Outside of that increase in materials, supplies and operating costs funding, McLean touched on a number of other areas that will see infusions of money. Among them are $500,000 aimed at credit retrieval and increasing the district’s graduation rates. This includes the expansion of guidance and support specialists at the four comprehensive high schools in the district, by adding an additional position at each of the schools.

Approximately $1 million will go towards student achievement in this budget recommendation. That money will be spread across summer school programs, the reinstatement of middle school interventionists, and the creation of a director of advanced programs position. She also recommended that $1.6 million be split between “student responsibility” and “parent engagement.” On the student responsibility side, the district hopes to add a program specialist that will help “support our schools in learning different strategies for responding to different kinds of student behaviors.”

Currently, there is only one person occupying such a position for the entire district. The budget also recommends adding a number of lunch/recess supervisors at the district’s elementary schools in an attempt to rein in unruly behavior.

For parent engagement, the budget recommends increasing “family liaisons” from eight to 16, and also adding five school outreach coordinators at the middle school level.

McLean closed with discussing the recommendation of $2 million to be put towards “restorations and enhancements.” This money would go towards various programs, such as the Internet Academy, increasing staff for the district’s Information Technology help desk, adding a full-time painter to the district’s payroll, adding eight assistant principals at some of the larger elementary schools in the district, and also adding junior varsity boys soccer and C-squad girls volleyball.

Another issue related to sports is the recommendation that “pay to play” fees would be removed for athletics, a policy enacted during the 2009-10 school year and at the height of the state, and the district’s, budgetary troubles.

The first public hearing on the budget recommendation is scheduled for June 10. A second public hearing and the budget adoption has been tentatively scheduled for June 24, although McLean noted that the business office is in a bit of flux currently, so the June 24 date might have to be pushed out. The district is not legally required to adopt a budget until Aug. 31.

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