Haines Interim Superintendent Rich Carlson’s last regular school board meeting was Tuesday night. At the meeting, the board approved an FY ’17 budget that draws about $290,000 from reserves.
Carlson took the reins of the Haines School District after an unexpected departure from former superintendent Ginger Jewell. He served as superintendent in Klawock for a dozen years and then retired. But interim stints in Cordova and then Haines took him out of retirement temporarily.
Carlson has faced some challenges during his year Haines. He picked up where Jewell left off with a conceptual agreement to house Chilkat Valley Preschool in the Haines School building. But after concerns about the financial costs and impacts to staff and students, the school board cast an emotional vote to not house the preschool.
Carlson, and all other Alaska superintendents, dealt with repeated problems with the new Alaska standardized tests. Ultimately, the state cancelled testing this year because of those failures.
Finally, Carlson worked to put district policies in place that protect transgender students from discrimination. He supported a transgender high schooler competing in the state track competition in May.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Carlson thanked the school board and staff.
“It’s been a challenging year in some aspects but a really good year. And I really do feel honored.”
School board president Anne Marie Palmieri also thanked Carlson, for his leadership.
“And getting us back on track and the calm, steady hand on the rudder of our boat.”
Carlson is working this month with the new superintendent, Anthony Habra. Habra was most recently superintendent in Paw Paw, Michigan. He takes over July 1. Although Carlson’s last regular board meeting was this week, he will also be present for a non-retention hearing and a budget meeting later this month.
The budget meeting will serve to make any final revisions to this year’s spending plan. The budget for the upcoming school year was approved by the board Tuesday. The district anticipates a $420,000 drop in revenue. Much of that comes from an expected decrease in student enrollment of about 20 students.
Carlson says they were able to trim spending in some areas to help make up for reduced revenue. A technology integration specialist job was cut and the special education staff is being downsized through attrition.
But that still leaves a $287,000 deficit. The plan is to draw that money from the district’s funding reserve. That would drain the reserve to about $430,000.
Carlson has said at past meetings that relying on the reserve is alright for now, but that money won’t last forever.
“I know I sound like a broken record, but if we would do that again in FY ’18, that would the last year we could do that,” Carlson said.
School leaders have talked about the possibility that the district might have to make more severe cuts to staff or programs in years to come.
Board president Palmieri says she appreciates the school staff’s work to make ‘thoughtful’ reductions in the spending plan for next school year.
The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for August 1.