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School District told to prepare for $35-$40 million budget shortfall

By Staff | Mar 29, 2011

The Lee County School District is expecting a $35 million to $40 million shortfall for the 2012-2013 budget.
On March 21 the state Senate budget showed a $37.6 million loss for the district and the House budget had a shortfall of a $39 million. The shortfall decreased on Friday to a $34 million loss, based on Senate numbers and a $37.8 million based on the House buget proposal.
“The House and the Senate are not too far away from each other,” Ami Desamours, budget director said.
She will present possible options, as well as potential assocaited cuts, at an April 5 workshop.
An initial shortfall estimate was presented to the district during a board meeting in February when the Governor projected a $52 million budget loss for Lee County next year.
Board member Jeanne Dozier encourages the community to write letters to the legislature to share the district’s message of minimizing damage to public schools. She said they are asking to have flexibility in the budget, so they can stretch those dollars as much as they can.
The discussion of an add-on certification program for English speakers of other languages also was addressed during the briefing meeting Tuesday afternoon. This issue is to be brought back for the board to vote on during the April 19 board meeting.
The ESOL Endorsement, which began after a 1990 settlement that concerned multicultural education and training advocacy training to be provided to all students, so they could have the opportunity to receive an education no matter what their native language is.
“There has been a change in the new teacher standard,” Cindy McClung, assessment, teaching methods and quality coordinator said. “These changes require that we make some modifications and have the board approve our new program.”
“The major change is giving more information,” she said.
The biggest change for the add-on certification program, McClung said, deals with the change of courses that are now being referred to as domains. She said they are the same courses, but are now aligned with the district’s standards.
Those courses include cross cultural communications that now has the domain name of culture, applied linguistics is now called language and literacy and testing and evaluation is now referred to as assessment. The courses that did not have a domain change are methods of teaching English to speakers of other languages and curriculum and materials development.
Chief Human Resource Officer Dr. Greg Adkins said an ESOL requirement is a part of a teacher’s job. He said the district identifies the teachers who do not have endorsements and then notify the principal.
“That strategy has been very successful,” Adkins said about the continued communication throughout the year.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Constance Jones said an ESOL endorsement is now required for a teacher to be hired in the district. If they do not have the endorsement, she said they must obtain it immediately.
“It helps expedite their obtainment of their endorsement,” Jones said.