Westwood School Board approves refined budget
The recent decision of the United States Congress to extend the Forest Reserve fund was helpful, added Bietz. The district will receive $163,000 in federal funds for the next four years.
“It’s a lot better than four weeks ago,” said Bietz.
In an effort to create a sound budget for the Westwood School District, Bietz and Uchida met with several officials from the Lassen County Office of Education to review the budget. Bietz reported that all agreed the district seems to be doing everything possible to align expenses with its revenue. However, the group determined a more in-depth site visit by experts from Sacramento-based School Services would be helpful. The Office of Education will cover the fees for the in-depth site visit, said Bietz.
In the continuing effort to create a solid budget, the Westwood School District held a public hearing on sufficiency of reasons to close the Community Day School Programs. Currently the district has two sites to serve high risk youth, including those referred by expulsion, probation or a school attendance review board. In addition to providing challenging academic curriculum, the schools advance pro-social skills. Red River Community Day School is for elementary school-age children and Westwood Community Day School for high school students.
Bietz said that although this alternative form of education has funding it is not enough to cover all costs and $41,000 from the general budget could be saved if the schools were closed. He added that currently no children had been referred to the program this school year and no staff assigned.
Students who might have been referred in the past are now enrolled in a behavioral modification program. There are also support services at the One Stop Center in Westwood, said Bietz.
Louise Biggs, a former teacher at Fletcher Walker Elementary and candidate for the school board, said she believed the Community Day School Program was highly beneficial to the students.
She stated, “I feel it is our duty to provide an education for all Westwood students, not just those it may be easier to educate. The good news is the children who receive these services often go on and do as well beyond high school as those that attend regular education classes.”
She added that the board has held more and more expulsion hearings over the past few years and the community day schools were opened to provide educational opportunities to students that had to be removed from the general population.
Uchida said it was important that the district figure out how to stop programs financed with restricted funds, such as Community Day schools, from encroaching on the general fund. The Community Day School Program was something that could be easily addressed by cutting services. Other programs would be more difficult to address, added Uchida.
Bietz said the three major areas of encroachment are the Community Day School Program, the cafeteria and transportation.
A second public hearing was held at the board meeting on the sufficiency of instructional materials. Bietz said the district lacked current science textbooks for grades kindergarten through fourth, but these students have materials. Otherwise the district has current materials in all subjects for all grades. The school board approved the resolution on the sufficiency of instructional materials.
During public comment, Biggs suggested the district post the board meeting agenda on the doors at the entrance of each school in order to draw more people to the meetings. Bietz said they would try posting the agenda at school entrances in addition to the other sites it is now posted, including the post office.
The Board of Trustees for the Westwood School District meets the third Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Fletcher Walker Elementary School Library. On occasion the date is changed. All community members are welcome to attend.
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