April 5, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Keane makes most of dealt hand

‘Consistency’ the key to running Post Falls School District
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Post Falls School District Superintendent Jerry Keane runs a tight ship. Even though Keane was named Idaho state superintendent of the year and Post Falls citizen of the year for 2009, he credits his board and staff as equals.

“We have an outstanding board of trustees,” Keane said. “They set the tone. They understand the role of the board of trustees.”

With Keane at the helm since 2001, and many board members with 10 years of experience, the district had no problem with voter confidence, overwhelmingly passing a two-year supplemental levy March 24. The levy, $1.735 million per year for two years, will not increase current property taxes. In fact, with passage of the levy, taxpayers will actually pay about one to two cents less per thousand dollars of property valuation.

Sid Armstrong, the district’s business manager, said with different areas of school property tax – the school plant facilities levy, emergency levy, tort levy and supplemental, the district was able to move dollars from the others to the supplemental side. The supplemental levy provides for curriculum adoption, facility and technology maintenance and state funding reduction assistance.

“We’ve been able to back off debt service,” Armstrong said.

The district has capped the emergency levy it will float in the fall at $400,000. With the passage of this levy however, it can plan for the 2009-’10 school year. As far as stimulus funds, Keane said they will be eligible for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funds.

“We believe it will be about $1.1 million over two years,” Armstrong said.

The Idaho Legislature approved $69 million in cuts to state public schools, a welcome relief from the proposed $130 million.

“The $69 million in cuts will not be easy, but I am convinced our talented teachers and administrators will work hard next year to ensure the cuts do not hurt student achievement,” said Tom Luna, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a press release.

Keane said the district will do some cutting, but it will do everything it can to preserve classrooms. Armstrong said maintenance has already been notified of projects put on hold.

Nonetheless, enrollment continues to rise.

“The indicators are, we continue to see some growth,” Keane said. He estimated 1 to 2 percent each school year, but it’s never definite until school starts and students actually take their seats.

Any personnel cuts would be by attrition in the district. Keane said the district is leaving positions dark unless they are essential.

“The whole philosophy is to save jobs,” Keane said. “It’s about teachers and kids.”

Keane was excited to report that New Vision High School, Post Falls’ alternative high school, will have its largest graduating class yet – 17. At Post Falls High School, more than 300 will graduate this spring.

“Consistency helps us, and experience always helps us do our business,” Keane said. “We believe teamwork is the best way to do business.”

Correspondent Linda Ball can reached by e-mail at rckwriter@roadrunner.com


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