A mix of familiar programs and new undertakings were among the funding requests presented to the Education Fund Board on Wednesday.
The Fund Board's annual budgeting process officially kicked off when two of its three commissions made their initial funding requests for programs to benefit the Steamboat Springs School District.
As in previous years, the Fund Board's Educational Excellence Commission requested money to keep class sizes small and to pay the salaries of some of the district's content standards staff. The commission also recommended the Fund Board give the district $10,000 for a parent-initiated elementary school Spanish program.
The commission presented a couple of new requests to the Fund Board, too, including funding to hire a full-time English as a Second Language teacher and a half-time ESL coordinator to help the district meet the needs of its growing population of students who don't speak English. Money to hire additional counselors for both district elementary schools and Steamboat Springs Middle School is another priority of the commission.
The Fund Board, the nonprofit group responsible for allocating $2 million in annual revenue from a half-cent city sales tax for education, questioned Educational Excellence Commission members and district officials about several of the requests.
The commission is asking for $246,000 to pay the salaries and benefits for Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelly Stanford and two full-time learning support specialists. Some Fund Board members asked district officials when and if the content standards staffing could be reduced in future years. Superintendent Donna Howell said it will take at least four years for the district to finish its curriculum development work in all subject areas. Howell said she wasn't sure when content standards staffing could be reduced.
The elementary Spanish program, which introduces basic Spanish language to all third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools, was again the subject of a lengthy discussion about its place in a district that lacks a comprehensive K-12 foreign language program. Steamboat Springs School Board members Paula Stephenson and Pat Gleason reiterated their past concerns of funding a program that hasn't been evaluated by the district and isn't part of an articulated districtwide foreign language curriculum. Howell said she supports the program and that the district is in the process of evaluating it. School Board member Michael Loomis also expressed support for the program and said he thinks a majority of his fellow board members will, too.
The small-class-size request was for $417,950 to pay the salaries of 10 classroom teachers hired during previous years. The district will continue to meet the students-to-teacher ratio mandated by district policy, Howell said.
The Educational Excellence Commission requested as much as $75,000 for a full-time ESL teacher to work directly with teachers, existing ESL aides and non-English-speaking students throughout the district. The request also would cover the salary of a half-time ESL coordinator who would focus on staff development, student assessments and resource and material gathering.
The district currently employs two full-time and one part-time ESL aides to work with its three dozen English Language Learners.
"What we're currently doing has been approved by the Colorado Department of Education," Stanford said. "We believe we could be doing much better."
The Fund Board also heard initial funding requests from its Technology Commission on Wednesday. Among the top funding priorities for that commission are $344,800 to pay the salaries of five technology staff members, $50,000 for a data warehouse system for the district and $15,000 to create a district helpdesk. The data warehouse and helpdesk requests were a direct result of information provided in a curriculum management audit and technology infrastructure analysis of the district, commission members said.
The requests presented by the commissions Wednesday were first readings. The Capital Commission will present its first readings next week. The Fund Board votes to give final approval to a funding request when it's brought forward for a second reading. If the Fund Board approves a particular request, it is presented to the School Board as a gift. The School Board has the right to refuse any gift offered to it by the Fund Board.