School Board analyzes budget, introduces 5-year strategic plan
At last week’s Nome Public Schools Board of Education work session, Superintendent Shawn Arnold shared what he called, “some good news in otherwise interesting financial times.” Arnold told board members that the district’s partnership with NANA Management Services, NMS, for facilities maintenance and custodial services had saved the district an initial $50,000 in last year’s budgeting and this year the savings looks to be about $100,000. Part of the contract, Arnold explained, is that any savings in that area are to be reinvested into the district’s Capital Improvement Projects. “Some of the projects we’re looking to reinvest those funds in will focus at Nome Elementary School,” Arnold said. “There are areas that have been neglected for some time.” Those areas included pressure washing and cleaning the exterior of the building, replacing sided and caulking as needed, painting handrails, and replacing broken doors and windows with more energy efficient ones. “Research has shown that when kids take pride in their building they typically do better, and we want to try to give them the best the best building as possible,” Arnold added. In another cost saving measure, the City of Nome is on track to install a thermal cover at Nome’s swimming pool, which could reduce the electrical usage there by 40 percent. “It’s a huge savings on electricity and fuel,” Arnold said, “and we’re looking at ways to recycle the heat from the boiler at Nome Beltz to heat the pool.”
District business manager Lucienne Smith attended the session via remote conferencing and took the board through a detailed explanation of the latest FY 17 budget draft. The final revisions will be presented at the meeting on April 12, and on April 19 board members will approve the final budget for next school year. The final approval coincides with the scheduled ending of the legislative session in Juneau. Until then, though, the district can’t know for sure the fate of the Early Childhood Education funding as well as mandated contributions to the retirement funds of certified and classified staff. After temporarily removing funding for the Nome Youth Facility, the legislature has reinstated that funding. NYF employs a teacher for which Nome Public Schools supports at 27 percent. Other unknowns include the Erate broadband assistant grant, which offsets the costs for Internet usage and associated technology, and the financial contribution from the City of Nome. Based on their own budget and the districts’ budget, the city is beholden to contribute a certain percentage to the local schools, which typically amounts to around two million dollars. The maximum contribution though, Arnold said, is $3 million. And, if the state doesn’t reinstate the $2.5 million Pre-Kindergarten grant, of which over $250,00 goes to Nome, the district will consider lobbying the city for additional funding. Both the city and the district have identified the Pre-K funding as a priority, and the city could specifically allot funding for the program. For now, the district has a balanced budget of close to 14.6 million dollars in revenues and expenditures.
In other school board news, Board President Barb Amarok and Superintendent Arnold unveiled the five-year strategic plan for Nome Public Schools. The plan, which is a culmination of community input and a representative Planning Team, includes revised mission and vision statements and the updated goals and objectives of the district. The full plan is scheduled to be approved by the board at the next regular meeting and, in addition to the mission, vision, and values statements, contains the board and superintendent guiding principles, board and superintendent goals, aspirations, and eight goals and objectives for the district.
Mission: Nome Public Schools, in active partnership with families and the community, educates and inspires students to become successful and responsible global citizens in an environment that represents our rich cultural diversities and local tradition.
Vision: Nome students will discover and expand their talents, meet high expectations, and be prepared for a changing world.
Values: Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence.
Amarok said she appreciates how the plan addresses foundational issues that affect students. “A great deal of thought went into this [plan].” Amarok said, “The process itself helped bring people together who might not have had that relationship in the past.”