July 2018 Update from the Superintendent
This article is the first of a six part series that will be published as we begin the 2018-2019 school year. The focus of these articles will be our fiscal, infrastructure, and facility accomplishments, as well as our current status and future challenges. This article (part 1) will focus on our financial history over the past three years and the concept of financial right sizing. Future articles will include: Part 2 (changes in Career and Technical Education); Part 3 (the condition of our Technical Center and Agriculture facilities); Part 4 (the educational benefit of moving our Technical Center to Buffalo); Part 5 (educational facility funding and comparisons to other districts in our former and current conferences); Part 6 (our financial challenges and our district’s story).
Prior to July of 2015 the district had made many necessary budget cuts. These cuts were prompted by a decline in enrollment, unchanging property values, and stagnant State funding. The cuts allowed the district to financially focus on increasing student achievement, technology improvements to support enhanced student learning, increasing staff member pay, and facility improvements.
Over the past three years we have spent over $1.2 million on technology infrastructure improvements. This process began with updating our servers and wiring district wide in 2015-2016. In 2016-2017 we fully updated our wireless system in the district to have the capacity for students to use wireless devices. This past school year we approved the lease of 1750 devices district wide so each student grades 2-12 will have their own device to use, and students in kindergarten and first grade will have a set of devices for every other classroom that will be shared. This technology upgrade will allow our students to access our online learning management system (Canvas) where the redesigned curriculum is housed. Improvements such as these have been shown to even further improve student achievement.
Since the 2015-2016 school year we have significantly increased staff member pay across all job descriptions. These raises have brought our district to a point where we are consistent with or surpassing the compensation of area and conference school districts. These increases have allowed us to retain quality staff members who were leaving the district for pay reasons, and they have allowed us to attract higher quality applicants for positions when they are open. The beginning teacher salary has increased by nearly 10% since June of 2016, and the beginning hourly pay rate has increased by 15 - 40% depending upon the job.
Finally, we have improved our facilities over the past three years. We refaced the exterior of Buffalo High School and relocated our maintenance department, transportation department, special services department, and central office to a new district office on Ash Street. Moving these departments has allowed us to add an alternative school to the district in the old Central Office building; the movement of the transportation department will allow us to build a regulation track this year on the current site. This summer, the interior of Mallory Elementary is being updated; we are converting a large classroom at the Middle School into two classrooms, and we are working to make the softball field at the Middle School playable.
All the technology improvements, wage increases, and facility improvements have been completed within our existing budget. These improvements were made possible with budget cuts and a slight increase in our revenue. If we were to exclude the cost of the new track from the budget this year, our revenues would be just slightly higher than our expenditures. This indicates we are financially within our means; however, it does not leave room for additional major facility projects. Our budget is, at this point, “right sized”. We are currently funding student programs, staff member pay, and facility maintenance at an appropriate level. Funding for these areas is at a level we will be able to maintain, however, we have maximized our potential with our current finances.
One project the district cannot undertake without the financial support of our patrons is building a new Dallas County Technical Center/Agriculture facility on the High School campus. This project is desperately needed to move our aging Technical Center from Louisburg to Buffalo. Our current Technical Center facility is in bad condition due to its age. I find it very unlikely that the current building in Louisburg will last more than 5 more years without major facility issues forcing closure of the facility. Our Career and Technical programs are far too important to us and our community to allow this to happen.
Over the next month or two I will be writing several more articles. The future articles will include: Part 2 (changes in Career and Technical Education); Part 3 (the condition of our Technical Center and Agriculture facilities); Part 4 (the educational benefit of moving our Technical Center to Buffalo); Part 5 (educational facility funding and comparisons to other districts in our former and current conferences); Part 6 (our financial challenges and our district’s story).
Support our local schools, we can’t afford not to! Believe in Buffalo!
Tim Ryan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Dallas County R-I School District