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Monday, 26 November, 2007 5:52 PM
Southgate schools are forced to do more with less funding
One of the most prominent sentiments that surround the Southgate School District is that everything goes hand in hand. Every action has a reaction. This holds true for district challenges, budget issues, and curriculum standards.
The district’s biggest challenge, according to Superintendent Dave Peden, has to do with finances and funding.
“This is the first year in the past eight years that we have had fewer students than last year. This increases challenges,” Peden said.
With not as many students enrolled in the community’s schools, the district receives less state funding than it previously had. State funding is determined by a student count day held in each school. The more students that are enrolled means that the school will receive more money from the state.
Peden also explained how the state’s bad economy impacts the district.
“It’s all related. State economy forces them to not have the money to give to us,” he said. “It’s a vicious cycle and it’s been like this for about four years. It’s getting old.”
With a tighter budget, the school board must figure out ways to save as much money as possible.
“We are negotiating to save money. We try to save money everywhere we can,” he said.
According to Peden, another problem that goes hand in hand with a restrained budget is the fact that 85 percent of the district’s budgets goes to staff salaries and benefits. On top of a budget that lacks its normal amount of state funding, there is only 15 percent of the budget left for the board to reallocate to other areas. While the 2007-2008 annual budget for the district, which was adopted this past June, is $44,806.70 a very small portion is set aside for much of the school’s needs.
Tougher graduation standards are another issue that has impacted the schools in Southgate. Just as the requirements to graduate high school have been adjusted, the district itself must adapt and change its curriculum.
According to the superintendent, making the actual academic changes hasn’t been difficult. The difficulty comes from getting the students to pass the newly added class that meets the new graduation requirements.
“We only had to add the fourth year math requirement, so that was an easy transition,” Peden said. “The problem is getting kids to pass the Algebra II class. [Before the curriculum change] Many students struggled with Algebra I, and now they are required to pass this additional class as well.”
Because of this problem, the district decided to change its normal two-semester calendar into a school year that is broken up into three trimesters. This is the first year with trimesters.
“This way, if a student fails algebra one in the first trimester they can take it over right away in the second trimester,” he said.
This gives the students more chances to obtain the credits they need to graduate said Peden. “It’s like a safety net.”
According to the districts website, the trimesters are broken down as follows: the first trimester started on September 4 of this year. The second trimester starts on November 30, and the third trimester starts on March 10. There are three days of exams at the end of each trimester.
Southgate’s neighboring city, Wyandotte, has stuck with the more traditional two-semester calendar even with the new graduation requirements.
According to their school’s website, the first semester ends on January 25. Similarly, they also hold two to three days of exams at the end of both semesters.
So while the district may face a problem from time to time, for example the new graduation requirements, they will eventually come up with a solution, like the trimester system.
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