Submitted by Dr. Kathy K. Burns
Nassau County School Superintendent
September 16, 2018 7:18 p.m.
Articles 1 and 2 in this 3-part series were written to inform you, the public, of our current allocations, budget needs, millage rate, and actions taken to reduce the budget and enhance learning. The final article in the series is designed to lookclosely at where we are today as well as what’s ahead.
It’s often been said that folks in education just “keep making it work!” And we do. We take what we’re given and make the best of it. Our goal is to ensure that the classroom, students, and teachers have what they need first. We also want to be effective, efficient, and excellent in what we do and how we manage our resources. We’ve tightened our belts and made many changes and improvements over the last 2 years. We will continue to look for opportunities to be conservative with our resources. There are some things we can do without,BUT……. we cannot let our budget priorities slip to a level of too many unmet needs that directly impact instruction and the success of students.
We must be keenly aware of the rising shortage of teachers and the issue of teacher salaries. Recruiting and retaining excellent teachers is becoming more and more challenging each year.
Article 2 in this series noted the role that technology plays in teaching and learning. Technology deployments for the 2018-19 school year included:
- 3,750 new student devices
- 300 new teacher workstations
- 341 interactive flat panel displays for classrooms
- Microsoft Office 365 for the entire district
- Digital access to curriculum
Other technical updates impacting district operations:
• new data center infrastructure
• new security appliances
• new Internet content filters
• new disaster recovery and business continuity site• new online bus routing system
TOTAL COST: $2.7M
Computer hardware is only removed from service after 5 years. Some hardware is kept for spares or parts. Beginning in the Summer of 2018, printers and other peripheral devices are only replaced as needed. Numerous studies on best practices in enterprise device lifecycle have found that replacing devices every 3-4 years has a lower total cost of ownership. We replace most computers once they are 5 years old. However, some computers are kept in service longer than 5 years.
Senate Bill 7026 required us to add to our responsibilities – law enforcement. We have established a school district law enforcement agency: The Nassau District Schools Department of Student Safety. We also hired a District Safety Specialist, as outlined in the Senate Bill. This year there’s a law enforcement officer presenton every campus. We are working closely with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Officeand the City of Fernandina Beach Police Department to make our schools as safe as possible. Safety is our top priority, but it doesn’t come without significantcosts.
Adding to our list of required responsibilities – sheltering in the time of hurricanes. Hurricane Irma cost the school district $191,000. We must be prepared for hurricane season which usually means shelters for our residents on short notice. We provide shelter from the storm, food, animal shelters, and transportation.
The School District has established a land/growth committee to assist us in monitoring and addressing growth issues. However, growth is here now, decisions must be made now, as we attempt to stay ahead of the curve.
The School Board meets annually with other government entities, such as the Board of County Commissioners, the Town of Callahan, the Town of Hilliard, and the City of Fernandina Beach. It’s important that we work together in addressing current needs and planning for the future. These meetings are meaningful and productive. They allow us to address common concerns, work together to solve problems, and collaborate for the future. Many of the ideas and requests made during these meetings usually come back around to funding. It’s an issue for everyone.
Legislated funding is not enough. While the State did increase the funding formula by $100 per student, the major portion of that increase was for special items such as school safety and mental health. The increase to the Base Student Allocation of the funding formula only increased $0.47. This is the portion that can be used to cover increases to operational costs. Our current Full-time Equivalent funding per student from the state funding formula is $7,413.76.
As stated in an earlier article, balancing our proposed budget required us to dip below the 3% reserve. This is not a position we want to maintain. We are working daily to identify areas for additional cuts. In our most recent election cycle, many school districts throughout the state added to the ballot a “tax referendum” for their local school district. Just a few weeks ago, Clay County voters approved a property tax referendum to pay for the safety related needs in their district. Will additional sales tax need to be considered in the future to meet the needs of our growing school district? That’s a question and aconversation we need to begin NOW.
In closing, the Nassau County School Board remains committed to the safety and success of students. We value your support and input as we work together for the success of EVERY STUDENT and the improvement of our schools. WE ARE NASSAU!