School board approves preliminary budget

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - 11:38

The Anchorage School Board gave approval a week ago at a special Thursday night meeting to its preliminary 2016-17 budget with one caveat: If the state Legislature does not include the $50 per student increase the district is banking on, then more cuts may have to occur.

Members had agreed two days earlier to postpone final voting on the preliminary budget to allow for more review of the proposal to close the district’s projected $11 million gap.

Apparently the two days of review was sufficient: It took the school board members less than five minutes to unanimously approve the preliminary budget that includes cutting 67 full-time teaching positions.

That doesn’t necessarily mean pink slips for any of the current teaching staff come the end of the current school year.

Between this year’s retirements and simply not filling positions that remain open as of this school year, teachers in the classrooms now most likely won’t lose their positions, according to Kameron Perez-Verdia, school board president.

However, there most likely will be some shuffling. Some teachers most likely will not teach the same class in the same building. That is yet to be determined over the summer months when district officials will use online registrations as a guide to see if enrollment numbers at individual schools change.

It also does not mean that class sizes won’t increase. Mostly likely, they will, Ed Graff, superintendent said. That again will vary from school to school based on enrollment, but he said he anticipates the class size increase to be minimal: perhaps only one student per class.

In other board news, the Iowa-based firm Ray and Associates that was hired by the school board to conduct an executive search to replace Graff, current superintendent, has begun its work.

The Anchorage School District Superintendent position is now advertised online with a salary “in the range of $235,000 plus an excellent comprehensive benefits package.” That represents a significant increase over what Graff earns at $180,000 plus a benefits package value around $73,000.

Board members defended the $55,000 jump in pay saying the ASD’s current superintendent compensation was too low as compared to other school districts of its size and student diversity.

Application deadline for the superintendent position slated to begin over the summer break is March 14.

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