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Juneau School District braces for more cutbacks, may consider redefining goals
Published: 01/24/2013 16:18:00
The budget situation is getting dire according to Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich. "I do think there will come a time, and we're on the precipice of that right now, when we start redefining what a public education means" he told us at a budget committee meeting this past Tuesday.

School districts around the state are for a 3rd year in a row making budgets with significant cuts as costs increase and education funding remains flat. The Juneau School District has cut over 10% of the workforce over the past 3 years, with a 22% reduction in the central office last year alone.

The budget for next year is being developed with a new approach says Gelbrich. "We've expanded our budget committee, the community membership on our budget committee, so that every school region is represented."

The district administration will present their budget proposal to the committee next Tuesday evening.

"From that point there will be a series of meetings in which the community members of the budget committee have the opportunity to amend that budget proposal, or develop one of their own" explains Gelbrich.

Juneau School District Budget Committee Chair Barbara Thurston says that the group is looking for public input on the next budget. "One of the most significant ways the public can get involved is by sending us information. At this stage we're looking for suggestions. We're looking for ideas on maybe some things that you think can be cut, maybe some efficiencies. I think all the board members hear things from parents frustrated with what seem to be inefficiencies in the schools, and this is the time to make some of those suggestions, we might be able to make some changes."

The committee prefers specific comments and suggestions which are easier to digest if provided in writing.

"Emails can be sent t an email address called and those will be passed on to the committee. And we will be taking public testimony at our February 19th meeting at 6 O'clock PM at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School" says Thurston.

With no sign of funding increases on the horizon; the district is looking at more ways to save. Gelbrich says the district is getting to a point where they've trimmed all they can, and unless there's more money in the future, cuts may have to be much deeper: "If the pattern continues, there will be a point - and maybe it's on our immediate horizon - where some things that we've always thought of as part of a public education simply won't be possible any more. And that'll be an excruciating process for communities."

Information on the budget process, along with a list of meetings and opportunities for public comment is posted at the Juneau School District web site.

By: Mikko Wilson -