You’re Invited Tom Moore says Great Falls Public Schools needs your Input
Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tom Moore is focused on many aspects when it comes to the students and the community. One of those areas is communication with the public about what is going on within the schools in the district. This is a transcript of an interview with Tom about several events coming up over the next month.
Great Falls Public Schools is heading into the month of March, we are almost to the end of the third quarter of the school year. Seems like that's it's been a blur in many regards. Our teachers have really been able to spend a lot of time focusing on academic achievement, haven't had nearly the interruptions in the school day that we've had in previous years. So we're pleased with that. We've adopted a new English language arts reading series to address some of our concerns around our reading scores, so our teachers are in the midst of training and implementing that program K-12.
It's a scientific approach, a brain based approach to teaching kids how to read.
So on the academic front, we've been able to get some work done without interruption, which we're thankful for, for sure.
We've had a couple of tragic events in the school district that we've had to deal with, and it seems like those continue to plague us. You know, we've had a couple of suicides that have been hard to deal with and that that impact on families and the community and the school district and their friends and teachers. Then we had an incident of violence a week or so ago here.
Fortunately, that student is recovering and actually back in school, we're thankful for that.
The individuals that perpetrated it are in custody and will be adjudicated. I'm thankful that we have school resource officers. Thank you to the Great Falls Police Department. The relationship that we have with law enforcement here in Great Falls, but also to our families and the community patrons who give us information and help us to address these issues and keep our schools as safe as possible.
EASTERN AA DIVISIONAL BASKETBALL
Some of the things that are going on Thursday (3-2-2023 through 3-4-2023) we've got basketball here in Great Falls, which is awesome. Both of our high schools have teams that will be competing. So I think both the Bison girls and boys are participating in the divisional tournament, CMR as well. So we've got Gallatin and Bozeman up here and then Billings Senior. (GFPS AD) Mike Hennenberg is doing an awesome job, by the way, of hosting this divisional playoff up here. And then, you know, he just got off the heels of the state swimming tournament here and the State swim meet, which, you know, we took a first place there and a second place (Bison girl’s 1st place, Rustler girl’s 2nd place), we're pretty proud of our swimmers and the good job Ed McNamee and those guys do. So we've got a lot of athletic stuff that we're winding down the winter sports season here this week and then the state tournament in Butte next week. Hopefully we'll be sending a team or two down there, which would be great.
2023 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The legislative session has been a little interesting this year. A lot of bills before the legislature that deal with schools and a large portion of the state budget, the general fund budget goes to public education. And so legislators are proposing and hearing different bills that affect our public school systems. So today the House is in the general session and is hearing a couple of bills on choice options, charter schools, there's two bills that will be heard on the House floor today. One of them is being sponsored by Representative Fred Anderson, who is the chair of the House Education Committee. Fred is a retired school principal here from Great Falls and has been in the legislature now for a few sessions. He's quite a leader down there. So we appreciate the work that Fred and all of our local officials from Great Falls are doing on these legislative issues. Friday (3.3.2023) ends this first half of the legislative session. So any bills that have not been entered by Friday, they're dead, pretty much. Then there will be the transmittal of those bills and then a turn around and a break briefly.
MEET LOCAL LEGISLATIVE OFFICIALS
What we usually do in Great Falls Public Schools during that transmittal week break is invite our local legislators to come in and meet with our school board of Trustees and our patrons, folks that are interested to give us an update, and interact with us a little bit, on particularly those bills that affect public schools and affect Great Falls in particular. So we're hosting a legislative forum on Tuesday, March 7th at 5:30 p.m. in the Aspen Conference room. That's where our board meetings are always held up at the district office and we've invited all of our local officials to be there. We've provided a zoom option for those legislators who cannot be there in person because some of them have conflicts. We've gotten confirmation from most of our legislators about whether they'll be able to attend or not. If the public wants to interact and attend, they may also contact us. If you go on our website right now, Great Falls Public Schools, there's a link there and you can click on that and register to get the Zoom link. You have to do that no later than 12 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7th. So the day of the event, you have until noon to get on the website and register for a Zoom link for this particular forum. And again, a number of our legislators will be there or zooming in to answer questions and interact with us on those bills that are germane to public schools.
BOARD SUBCOMMITTEE BUDGET MEETING
On Thursday, March 9th at 5:30 p.m., we'll hold our annual town hall meeting on our school budget. Our Trustees Board Budget Subcommittee has been meeting since October regularly to address the projections for enrollment and revenue and expenditures for this next coming school year, (2023-24). Brian Patrick, our business operations manager, and trustee Mark Finnicum, who heads up the board Budget Committee, hosts those meetings and they're open to the public as well. This is the opportunity that we've highlighted over the last several years where the community can come in, interact with our trustees and give input on different options to address balancing our budget for this next year based on the projections that we have. So we've had two enrollment counts, one in October and one in February.
Most of our general fund revenues is determined by our enrollment and whether it goes up or down and fluctuates, which it does quite a bit here, especially in the last few years with the COVID situation that affects our annual budget revenues.
The legislature and cost of living increases that we're seeing coming out of the proposed legislation and so forth will affect our revenue, so all of these things get taken into account, explained to the board by our staff, myself, Brian Patrick and others, and then they have to decide how they're going to balance the budget for this next year, whether we take some from our reserve accounts, the balance or make cuts and reductions, or if we have enough revenue coming in, projected to address the rollover costs, and costs are constantly increasing. We're negotiating salaries right now with eight different collective bargaining units. Salaries are on the rise everywhere, as you know, and then the ongoing demand, more of providing health insurance for our employees. So all those factors go into the mix, cost of keeping the lights on and all of those things go in as well. Brian Patrick does a very nice job of giving that overview to the community.
We also look at technology because that's another area of huge expense for the district. Tom Herring, our tech director, will have a presentation at that meeting and then Brian Patrick will touch on the safety issues of the district, it's another large expenditure area.
And then Lance Boyd, who is one of our executive directors who oversees our federal programs has been charged with the stewardship of the ESSER II & III funds (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds), the federal funds that are coming into our school district to address the adverse effects of COVID. We have another year, actually to 2025, to expend those funds. Lance will give an update on that during that community budget forum. It's a town hall meeting. It is on Thursday, March 9th at 5:30 p.m. in the Aspen Room, again at the school district offices.
BOARD BUDGET MEETING
The board Budget committee will meet one more time on March 15th to review the options that they have and provide some guidance and some information for those representative trustees who will be presenting the proposed budget to the board. There will be a regular board meeting on March 27, so if the board was to elect to go out for a levy, or something like that, they would have to declare it on that March 27 board meeting, so that's what's going on in March in terms of the forums.
WHERE TO FIND THE INFORMATION
All of this information is on our website at Great Falls Public Schools or by calling 406-268-6000
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