Board discusses belt-tightening measures

Marcus Scheibe

GRANGEVILLE — Elementary classroom teachers will be shouldering the responsibility for teaching physical education to help the Mountain View School District save money.

That change is part of eliminating the equivalent of seven full-time positions for certified employees in the $13.1 million budget the district’s school board passed earlier this week for the 2019-20 school year.

Only one person will lose a job in the belt-tightening, which is expected to save $162,157 a year, said Superintendent Marcus Scheibe at a Monday evening school board meeting.

“That’s as good as we could come out at this point,” he said.

He declined to elaborate about how or when it will be determined who is being downsized in the district that serves Grangeville, Kooskia and Elk City.

The district will scale back counseling, reduce physical education at the high school level and phase out a position for an elementary and high school math instructor at the Clearwater Valley schools in Kooskia.

An elementary teaching position will be cut while one position will be funded with federal money, and the district will no longer have a librarian.

The district is trying to be frugal without hurting the quality of education, Scheibe said.

The largest cut the board announced is to medical insurance premiums for employees’ spouses and children, from $714,246 to $448,000 per year. How much the district will spend on medical coverage will be decided in union negotiations that are ongoing.

The money issues are a result of dropping enrollments and shrinking revenue from the Secure Rural Schools federal program.

“There’s no money being hid or shuffled,” said Board Chairman Lot Smith. “We just flat don’t have as many kids.”

The district receives about $64,000 a year as part of a program that started in 1908 where 25 percent of the proceeds from U.S. Forest Service timber sales are shared with counties that have large federal holdings.

That number is significantly less than it was before environmental concerns in the early 1990s limited logging.

Secure Rural Schools program started in 2000 to help wean timber-dependent areas from the payments through legislation sponsored by Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

The Mountain View School District’s financial uncertainty fueled confusion about a choice the board made in recent weeks not to renew the contracts of three teachers.

The contract decisions were unrelated to the budget cuts, Scheibe said, and the board reversed itself on one Monday.

Mike Johnson will be allowed to keep his position as a science teacher as Grangeville Middle School as long as he complies with a strict improvement plan, said board member Rebecca Warden.

More facts were shared about Johnson in an executive session discussion that preceded the board’s reversal, Scheibe said.

The board didn’t change its stance on the contracts of the other teachers that weren’t renewed. The teachers cut were Kari Schumacher, at Grangeville Elementary School, and Vincent Martinez, at Clearwater Valley High School.

Students supporting Johnson and Martinez spoke at Monday’s board meeting. One of Johnson’s pupils praised him for making his classes interesting with projects such as dissecting fetal pigs and using language his students understood.

Martha Smith described Martinez as a teacher who was pivotal in helping numerous students succeed in high school. He was known for giving hungry students his own lunch or using his lunch break to motivate students when they were thinking about making bad decisions like quitting school, she said.

Scheibe declined to comment about the circumstances surrounding the departures of Schmuacher and Martinez, since they are personnel issues.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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