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Nome Schools Cuts Budget Mid-Year; Board Revises Policy at Meeting

Nome Beltz High School "den of the mighty nanooks"
Outside Nome Beltz High School in October 2018. Photo: Katie Kazmierski, KNOM.

The current 2018-2019 school year budget was revised for the third time at Monday night’s meeting of the Nome Public School Board.

According to Superintendent Jamie Burgess, this revision came about after hearing back from the state (following a lengthy review process) that possible intensive-needs students were not going to be classified as such. Therefore, the district will not be receiving extra money for those students in the budget.

“So, we have to reduce the budget accordingly. If you look at the expenditure, you see revenue came down. Usually, intensive-needs children often require a one-on-one or 2-on-1 aide, and so, that was removed out of the budget.”

Based on the release of the House Finance Committee’s substitute budget last week, Burgess says things are looking more positive in terms of next year’s State budget. Still, she says the school district isn’t “out of the woods yet.”

“There may be amendments this week. It has to go to the senate finance committee, and then that final compromised budget has to go to the governor, and the governor may exercise his line item veto power, which would mean we would need a three quarter vote in the Senate and House together to override it.”

Board Policy was also updated with minor changes to clear up vague language, according to Burgess. Edits to the employee disciplinary policy clarified that administrators and directors have the same protections against suspension and dismissal as classified employees, or employees who don’t require a certificate in the state of Alaska to hold their position (secretaries, classroom aides, and maintenance staff are a few examples). Previously, only classified employees were protected in writing.

Following approval of the updates, Board Vice President Barb Amarok admitted she would like to see one more language addition to the section on disciplinary policy:

“I heard you say that these are recommendations of AASB — I’m surprised that AASB hasn’t added the term ‘gender identification,’ because we’ve added gender now, and we’ve added sexual orientation, but I think a lot of organizations now are also adding gender identification, so it kind of surprised me that wasn’t added in there.”

The Board agreed unanimously on the Six Year Capital Improvement Priority Plan, which details the top maintenance upgrades and updates to be submitted to the state, listed in order of urgency. First on the list is the replacement of Nome Elementary School fire alarms: the current system is “obsolete,” and currently used parts are being purchased from an online marketplace. The estimated project cost is $180,500. If it’s approved, the state would fund 90%, and the remaining 10% would be up to NPS.

Also approved was the food service contract with Nana Management Services [NMS], which can be renewed four times in the future without renegotiating the cost with the state. Board Member Nancy Mendenhall acknowledged feedback she’s been hearing from students on school lunches.

“The main complaint I have found from the elementary kids is that the vegetables are overcooked, and that’s kind of a general complaint from the kids. You know, it wasn’t just the broccoli… it was that the vegetables were overcooked.”

Pending food survey results from NMS will shed more light on how students regard school food quality.

The School Board will again look at next year’s budget at its work session on April 23. They will submit their final proposal to the city of Nome on May 1.

Image at top: file photo: Outside Nome-Beltz High School in October 2018. Photo: Katie Kazmierski, KNOM.

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