The Superintendent Community Advisory Council (S-CAC) spent the last six months reviewing the district’s budget, funding priorities, current climate and asked some tough questions about how to best serve students in Bellevue School District.
That work came together in a report that focuses on an immediate phase – revive – to help students, staff and schools recover from the pandemic. This work focuses on mental health and social emotional supports, as well as additional academic recovery and family supports.
In addition to immediate recommendations, S-CAC outlined budget priorities for 2022-2025 in a reimagine phase. This work focuses on long term investments, like universal PreK, restructuring middle school to help ease the transitions for students, a focus on students learning an additional language and more supports and training for educators.
“At the beginning of our work, we wondered if a group that diverse could find consensus on the hard issues that you asked us to study and discuss and, then come to you with agreed upon set of recommendations. While our Council was diving into this process and these issues, world events also impacted our work and time together,” wrote co-chairs Randy Eng and Tony Williams in the final report.
The report centers around four priority items:
- Mental health supports for students, teachers and district staff and the need to invest in additional resources to meet those needs.
- Equity at the center of all decisions. Barriers need to be removed and new resources created, including universal preschool, tutors for students in every corner of the district, hiring counselors of color to serve communities of color and additional training for BSD staff.
- Partnership with the larger BSD community is critical to success. The community wants to partner with BSD and we need to find more opportunities. In some cases, BSD needs to build or rebuild relationships with community members and find ways to bring diverse groups together.
- Academic excellence remains at the heart of BSD and the district needs to continue to support efforts that bring excellence for our students, staff and schools.
To help meet these budget priorities, the S-CAC report recommends about $10 million in changes to BSD spending, including reducing duplication in teaching and learning supports, cutting central office administration and reducing funding carryovers. Also, with our lower enrollment, we will need to reduce staff for the 2021-22 school year.
Our district already faces a shortfall caused by lower enrollment and additional COVID-19 related costs. In addition, while many school districts are receiving large funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), BSD is not. This federal funding is being allocated to K-12 school districts based on the previous year’s Title I shares. While BSD is grateful for additional funding, it is only about $1,100 per student, which does not offset the additional costs of the pandemic on students, staff and schools. The state legislators may consider additional supplements as they work through the state budget process this spring.
The next step is to work on an implementation plan for the larger recommendations, like universal PreK and changes to our middle schools.
“I am so proud of the hard work and tough conversations S-CAC members had over the course of their work,” said Dr. Ivan Duran, Superintendent. “I look forward to working together to implement many of these recommendations. When we bring our community together, we can create new and innovative solutions.”
The final budget will go before the School Board for approval in July. You can read more about the Superintendent Advisory Council here.