By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Mac schools to add staff, trim class sizes

She told the district’s budget committee that the improving state economy and recent enrollment growth will mean more money for the district. That will make it possible to add about 12.5 teaching positions, increase support for math programs and students with disabilities, put more money into supply and asset reserve funds, and start a fund for future textbook and technology purposes.

“This is a year when we actually have an opportunity to return some things to the budget,” Russell said.

It was the first time since the economy declined in 2008 that her budget message included additions, rather than cuts or hold-the-line spending.

Since the economic downturn, McMinnville schools have trimmed staff and raised class sizes multiple times, for a total increase of three students per class at every level. In 2014-15, Russell said, the district will be able to decrease class sizes by 1.5 students at each level, to an average of 18.5 students in each kindergarten class, 24.5 students per class in grades one through five, 28 students per class in middle school and 28.5 per class at the high school.

Under the superintendent’s proposal, the district also will add staff to make sure students are successfully meeting new standards. Russell said about six math support positions will be added for the 2014-15 year only as the district makes the transition to Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessment system.

The plan also restores some support services for students with disabilities, which had been decreased during the era of cuts. It adds funds for translation services that reach parents of students in the English Language Learner program. And it pays for text adoption and technology for language arts.

The total proposed general fund for 2014-15 is $63.4 million, which includes a $4 million contingency fund -- not the $5 million the board would like to have on hand each year, but $1 million more than last year’s $57.5 million budget. Since 2008, the district has needed to use some of its contingency fund several times to avoid deeper cuts in staff and class size increases when state funding money ran short.

About 51 percent of the district’s operating revenue comes from the state and 22 percent from local property taxes, with the rest from federal sources, the beginning fund balance and other sources.

Russell’s budget message also included an overview of some of the district’s recent successes.

All the district schools are ranked in the top 50 percent of schools in Oregon, the elementary schools in the top 30 percent. The district has had three “model” elementary schools for two consecutive years, more than any other district in the state. In addition, Duniway Middle School is at “model” levels, although the label is not applied to it because it doesn’t receive Title 1 funding.

The district was chosen as a 2014 National Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Showcase program, one of only three in the nation. Sue Buel Elementary Principal Stephanie Legard is the 2014 Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year and Cindi Hiatt-Henry is Northwest Regional Outstanding Nutrition Director.

Students are above state levels in math and reading. They are performing at high level in music, robotics, engineering and other subjects. McMinnville High School awards far more dual high school/college credits than any other school in Oregon.

The district budget committee will meet again May 21 to continue discussion of the proposed spending plan. The committee, made up of seven board members and seven other citizens, must send a proposed budget to the school board. The board will hold a public hearing in June before finalizing the budget.

For more information, call the district office, at 503-565-4000.

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