ST. PARIS – Graham is a wonderful, tight-knit community. We try hard to reflect our community in everything we do. Our district suffered a setback in 2010-12. While we worked hard to stabilize a budget, it took massive cuts and staff reductions, and the district has been forced to operate with one of the lowest per pupil expenditures in the 7-county area. Some of these cost measures have made it harder for our staff and students to compete. Our operational expenses and inflation only raise our sense of urgency.
We enacted a plan, sought community participation, and mounted a campaign to address these issues. We failed at the polls with low voter turnout and a message that was not received by our community. Now, we cannot maintain our programming and services with this budget. There are several actions we will be faced with that can save money, but they come at a cost. Our budget will not allow us to operate the way we have any longer without additional funds.
We have done our part to operate frugally, as did other administrators and boards. The work did not go away when those positions were cut in 2012. Instead, we now have fewer teachers and staff left who are doing more work. At the same time, our operating funds have not kept pace with inflation, and state funding has decreased. We cannot continue in this capacity and expect our student achievement to increase, or even stay the same. The fact is, it’s been hurt.
Our work in arriving at next steps is strategic. The Board has unanimously decided to proceed with a May ballot issue. The need did not go away. It is here now. It’s important that we rally now.
You can be assured that we will continue to operate in a frugal and lean manner. We are only pursuing this path because we have spent years exhausting all others. We have spent time over the past year meeting with small groups of concerned citizens to garner their input and feedback regarding the resulting 1 percent, 5-year term, earned income tax issue.
As we move forward together, we will work to inform you as to what’s next with plans for the May 8, 2018 ballot. I will continue to keep you posted, and we value your opinions.
This will be our top priority as we move forward. We will continue to promote our goals and respond to our community’s charge to realize the vision of Success Today, Prepared for Tomorrow.
Kirk Koennecke is superintendent of Graham Local Schools.