Budget cuts not equally felt across school district

Some middle and elementary school principals say the budget constraints announced by the Clark County School District earlier this year have little effect on day-to-day operations of their schools.

“We’re feeling the pinch in other areas, but not in a way that’s directly impacting kids,” Miller Middle School principal Nicole Donadio said.

Miller started the school year with 16 more students than projected by the district. Miller received roughly $3,700 per pupil, Donadio said. If a school comes in over projection, the district gives the school more money to compensate for the extra students; if a school comes in under projection, the district takes money back.

Donadio said she considered cutting down the administrative team if the school came in under projection. But she won’t have to, thanks to $17,000 of leftover money from the previous school year, a $63,000 grant and the additional student funding.

“That would be the best way to keep (cuts) away from the kids,” Donadio said. “We shook out OK, and that didn’t become a necessity.”

Some elementary schools, such as Lamping and Vanderburg, were able to absorb the cuts and have flexibility with their budgets. Vanderburg started the school year at nearly 100 students over its projection. It used the additional money to hire temporary tutors and aid teachers who had larger class sizes, Vanderburg principal Catherine Maggiore said.

“If (pupil) numbers come in lower, you could end up with less money in your budget, and then you’d have to lose somebody,” she said.

Lamping also had more students than projected but not enough to require hiring an additional teacher, principal Robert Solomon said.

“If we had exactly the number of kids in the class that we were funded for, we wouldn’t have any extra dollars to have some flexibility with,” he said.

Other schools haven’t absorbed the budget cuts so well.

Administrators have been put in “an impossible situation” at Foothill High School, principal Lisa Burkhead said.

At a school organizational team meeting, Burkhead proposed scenarios for a vote to determine which positions would be cut. One proposal would cut one of the school’s four assistant principals. Some of Foothill’s assistant principals appeared melancholic as they watched team members passionately debate the merits of cutting one of them.

Another option was to let go of a graphic arts and design position that was valued highly by teachers at the school. The team voted to cut the graphic-design employee, leaving the school with a smaller budget than it would have had with one fewer assistant principal.

“It’s going to be tight,” Burkhead said, frankly. “We’re in a terrible state here.”

At Green Valley High School, principal Kent Roberts said his school will be OK this year because of extra state funding provided by Senate Bill 178. Schools with higher percentages of students on the free and reduced-lunch program, as well as a high rate of English language-learners, receive extra money.

Roberts said the disparity of the effects of budget cuts on schools puzzles him.

“It’s just odd to me that you’re going to have schools like Foothill that are going to sit there and go, ‘OK, are we going to cut an (assistant principal), are we going to have to cut some teachers?’ he said. “While you have other schools that have more money than they’ve ever gotten.”

Administrators across Henderson said their primary goal is to keep schools running normally for students. Employees who are cut go to surplus, meaning they can look for positions at other schools across the district.

“It’s not our first rodeo,” Roberts said. “I … It really is about just (saying), ‘OK, let me figure out how I’m going to do this.’

“That’s the cool thing about educators: For the most part, whatever it is, whatever you throw at us, we’ll figure it out.”

Contact Diego Mendoza-Moyers at dmendozamoyers@viewnews.com or call 702-383-0496. Follow @dmendozamoyers on Twitter.

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