By Naomi Hatch
“It shows the district in pretty good light,” Snowflake School District Superintendent Hollis Merrell advised the district governing board March 15 as he reviewed the Arizona Auditor General’s report on schools.
The district has six schools and 2,433 students attending. Merrell explained that peer average is the average of schools the district’s size.
A total of 56.1 percent of the district’s spending is in the classroom, with 10.9 percent spent on administration, 11.6 percent on plan operations, 3.7 percent on food service, 6.5 percent on transportation, nine percent on student support and 2.2 percent on instruction support.
The five-year spending trend in the report is noted as, “Total spending per pupil decreased by 11 percent. Spending in the classroom decreased from 59.4 to 56.1 percent. Spending on administration increased substantially and spending on plan operations decreased. Spending on other non-classroom areas remained fairly stable.”
Measured with peer averages, administration cost is low at $675 compared to $748 peer average and $736 state average. Food service is moderate at $2.50 cost per meal compared to $2.56 peer average and $2.47 state average.
Transportation is high at a $5.04 cost per mile compared to $3.29 peer average and $3.50 state average, with a $1,027 cost per rider compared to $644 peer average and $982 state average.
Plant operations is moderate with the square footage per student at 176 compared to 173 peer average and 152 state average, and cost per square foot is low at $4.07 compared to $5.53 peer average and $6.09 state average.
All schools merited a B grade, which Merrell said was an improvement for each of the six schools in the district. The number of district students who met state standards was above the peer group and state-wide on each of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tests, with math over 70 percent, reading over 80 percent, writing, 65 percent, and science, 65 percent. The peer average is 50 percent for math, 70 percent for reading, under 50 percent for writing and 50 percent for science. The state average is 60 percent for math, 75 percent for reading, over 55 percent for writing and just under 60 percent for science.
Attendance across the board was 94 percent, but the graduation rate in the district in 2011 was 91 percent compared to a peer average 80 percent and a state average 78 percent.
Board Vice President John Stewart said he felt the district’s high graduation rate was a reflection on the staff.
Board President Cory Johnson expressed appreciation to the staff and the community for the quality of students in the district.
“I’m continually amazed that we do more with less, said governing board member Shea Flake.
State funding going into education has declined so much over the last five years, noted Business Manager Mark Ollerton, and he explained that the district’s budget for teachers has shrunk $800,000 in soft capital because of the loss of Proposition 301 money. He further noted that the state hasn’t funded the two percent inflation factor since 2008. “You can see where cuts coming down every year have directly affected money going into the classroom,” said Ollerton.
In other business, Ollerton reported that in order to receive an additional six cents per meal from the state they had to make some adjustments, for example to the menu. A state audit on the cafeteria was done as part of the compliance. “The menus were all in compliance and the audit was passed with flying colors,” said Ollerton. “There were no problems at all, which hasn’t always been the case.” The district received more $3,500, paid retroactive for October to December. He thanked Sariah Hoffman, the cafeteria director, and the cafeteria staff.
Ollerton said that Hoffman applied for a grant for new salad bars at each of the six schools and received an approximately $12,000 grant. The equipment should be here shortly.
Merrell reported that maintenance has been very busy with safety on school doors and has completed replacing some Plexiglas in the doors at Snowflake Junior High School.
A total of 198 applications have been received for principal positions, and Merrell said he expected to receive three to five more applications by the closing date, March 15. Snowflake Intermediate School Principal Alma Yates and Taylor Intermediate School Principal Jess Hughes notified the board previously of their plans to retire at the end of the school year. Snowflake High School Principal Larry Titus and Taylor Elementary School Principal Dennis Evans also plan to retire, and those retirements were on the March agenda.
In other action March 15, the board:
* Unanimously approved resurfacing the SHS track.
Merrell reported that there are still drainage issues on the southwest corner of the football field, but they are working with the Town of Snowflake to correct those problems and they felt that they cannot wait another year to resurface the track. The company they are working with offers discounts if they can resurface during the winter months, and staff members are in the process of setting up the resurfacing to be during spring break.
* Unanimously approved the 2014 district calendar with a change of snow days from Fridays to April 18 and May 14, 2014, so they don’t take away from the Friday Reteach program.
* Unanimously approved fundraisers for SHS volleyball, the National Honor Society and Snowflake Intermediate School.
* Approved out-of-state travel to Washington, D.C., for Starlena Begay, who recently was elected to the executive board of National Johnson O’Malley (JOM). She will be advocating for JOM, which is concerned about possible funding cuts due to the fiscal problems in the federal government.
* Approved out-of-state travel for reading specialists to attend the International Reading Association Convention.
The travel costs will be funded through a grant.
* Approved out-of-state travel for the SJHS and SHS volleyball coaches to attend a coaches’ clinic in Albuquerque, N.M.
By Naomi Hatch