Unanswered questions about school funds raise concerns

Community members are worried about money in Kent Schools and where it goes



Despite the recent passing of the two Kent School District levies on the February special election ballot, and the passing of a bill that provides the district with $75 million, there will still be staff cuts.

With cuts come questions and with questions come wanted answers.

School district leaders recently hosted four public meetings at the high schools for community members, staff, parents and students to ask any questions they may have about the district’s budget.

At Kentridge High School on April 19, Superintendent Calvin Watts presented the audience with an overall summary about what the KSD represents and where the district is financially.

In his presentation Watts stressed the key three values of the district: equity, excellence and community.

Watts discussed how the district is often ranked as one of the most diverse schools in the state and highlighted KSD’s award-winning staff members.

Watts spoke about the community in the KSD and said there is family engagement and volunteers in the district who make an impact on the school.

All of this might sound good on paper to some, but many community members were unhappy about what was going on and felt they were not getting the answers they needed.

Questions and concerns were raised about how the district spent about 19 percent less on materials, supplies and operating costs than it did last year.

Dee Dee Dabelstein, a Kentridge graduate and a teacher in a different school district, said she did not see the district practice equity.

“Since equity is a core value of the Kent School District, the fact that they’re relying on PTAs and other systems to support the fact that they’re taking away supply money isn’t equitable, it’s not meeting their core value,” she said. “They have no way to supplement the fact that they don’t have supplies. So teachers are having to spend their own money. As a teacher, I don’t have the money to supplement an entire kindergarten, first grade, second grade classroom, so that’s not equitable. I think that’s a failure on their part.”

Attendees were encouraged to share their thoughts on issues impacting academic and social growth, as well as what the district can do to facilitate students success.

Deabelstein said she thought about coming back to teach at KSD, but decided against it.

“I came here (to the meeting) because I grew up here, I grew up in the Kent School District, and I wanted to return to the Kent School District because I went here. But given the current situation I’m not really inclined to want to come back unless things start to change,” she said.

The projected ending fund balance for August is $1.9 million, according to the KSD presentation. It said “this is much less than the policy required minimum of 5 percent of our budget, but demonstrates we are on a positive trajectory.”

Some of the general fund revenues for the 2017-2018 school year were state funds at 54.33 percent. Local taxes were the next largest funding revenue at 19.6 percent and then state funds special purpose revenue funds at 14.53 percent.

The general fund budget by activity of expenditure shows that 61.85 percent of that funding goes toward teaching activities. Teaching support is the next largest funded item at 10.96 percent.

Deabelstein said she hopes the district is able to learn from its mistakes and make things better again.

“I just think the Kent School District needs to build trust with the community, with teachers, with students, with parents (and) future teachers that want to be out here. They need to have more transparency, they need to be honest, they need to tell us what they learned from this. I think if they explain what lessons they learned from the situation and how they’re not going to repeat it again in the future, is going to be a huge step in helping to build that trust again,” she said.

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